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Berlin attack: Police hunt Tunisian suspect after finding ID papers in truck

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truck came barreling through the christmas market. if i hadn't stopped to check my phone, i would have been hit. everyone went scurrying. so many people hurt.

Police are searching for a Tunisian man in his early 20s in connection with the Berlin Christmas market attack, a German security official told CNN Wednesday.

The suspect’s identity papers were found inside the cabin of the truck used in the attack, which left 12 people dead and 48 injured, the official said. The man was born in 1992, he said.

An urgent manhunt is underway for the suspect, who is potentially armed and dangerous, CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank said.

Authorities on Tuesday released another man who was arrested shortly after the truck smashed into the market, saying there was no evidence to connect him to the attack.

Police have appealed to the public for any digital videos and photos they have of the incident or possible suspects. They tweeted Tuesday that they were investigating 508 leads.

Attacker on the loose

ISIS claimed it had inspired the attack. The terror group’s affiliated Amaq news agency described the perpetrator as a “soldier of the Islamic State,” who had acted in response to calls for attacks in the West.

German police say they are treating the attack as terrorism, but there is no evidence of a direct link with ISIS.

On Tuesday evening, police released an asylum-seeker believed to be from Pakistan who had been detained in the immediate aftermath of the attack. According to German media, witnesses had said he had been driving the truck.

But Peter Frank, general prosecutor at Germany’s Federal Court of Justice, said that forensic tests offered no link between the man and the truck’s cabin.

Original truck driver murdered

A Polish man found shot dead inside the truck has been identified as its original driver, according to German media.

He was not driving during the incident, police said. The gun used to kill him has not yet been recovered.

The slain driver may have been involved in a struggle with the suspect inside the truck’s cabin before he was shot, Cruickshank said. This could be when the suspect’s identity papers were dropped, he suggested.

The truck, which was owned by a Polish company, was hauling 25 tons of steel before it was steered into the crowd, according to its owner Ariel Zurawski.

Zurawski identified the slain driver as his cousin. He said he was happy to be finishing his route from Italy to Berlin and was looking forward to returning to Poland soon.

“He was asking if he should be back home by Thursday night because he still needed to buy a Christmas gift for his wife,” Zurawski said.

Country in mourning

German authorities have not publicly named any of the victims and police have asked people not to post videos or photos of them as a sign of respect.

But Italy’s Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that Italian national Fabrizia di Lorenzo was missing following the attack and that her family was now in Berlin. The ministry said it was waiting for German investigators to complete their work before issuing a statement.

Italy’s ANSA news agency reported that the missing woman, age 31, worked in Berlin and that her cellphone was found at the attack scene. Her mother and brother have gone to Germany to undergo DNA tests, ANSA said.

German President Joachim Gauck visited some of the injured at the Charité hospital in Berlin Wednesday morning.

He told reporters afterward that his visit was intended “to give support for the injured people, to show them the whole nation is supporting them” and that they are not alone as they fight for their lives.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was “horrified and deeply sad about what happened” during a visit to the scene of the attack.

Dressed in black, Merkel called for unity in the face of the attack. She said it would be “especially disgusting” if the perpetrator of the attack turned out to be an asylum seeker, as police originally suggested.

Upheaval for Merkel?

Monday’s attack could cause further political upheaval for Merkel, who has come under criticism over her government’s generous acceptance of refugees. Germany has taken in more than 890,000 asylum-seekers in the past year, a much higher number than other European nations.

But a backlash has been growing, fueled in part by Islamist terror attacks in Germany and across the continent.

Christmas markets across the city were closed as Berliners gathered at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church near the scene of the attack to pay their respects to the victims.

Thousands of people both outside and in the church listened to the service, which included a song that asked: “So what are we fighting for? What do we live for? What do we pray for? What do we die for? What do we love for?”