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Baines pleads for no ‘political posturing’ after Berlin attack

20 December 2016


Message of sympathy: the Mayor of Berlin, Michael Mueller, signs the book of condolences in the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, on Tuesday

Message of sympathy: the Mayor of Berlin, Michael Mueller, signs the book of condolences in the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, on Tuesday

THE suspected terror attack on a Christmas market in Berlin should not be met by “political posturing”, the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, said on Tuesday.

Twelve people were killed, and 48 injured, on Monday evening, after a truck ploughed through a Christmas market outside the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. IS has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The main suspect, Anis Amri, a 24-year-old Tunisian, was shot dead by police in Milan on Friday morning after a four-day Europe-wide manhunt. The interior minister of Italy Marco Minetti reported that Amri had opened fire on police after being asked for ID during a routine patrol in Sesto San Giovanni. His fingerprints matched those found on the door of the lorry.

The driver was initially identified in the German media as a 23-year-old migrant from Pakistan, apprehended by police. He was later released without charge. The killer had hijacked the truck from its Polish driver, who was found shot dead inside the vehicle.

The killer had hijacked the lorry from its Polish driver, who was shot dead as he tried to fight for his life.

“There is much we still do not know with sufficient certainty, but we must, as things stand now, assume it was a terrorist attack,” the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said on Tuesday. “I know it would be especially hard for us all to bear if it were confirmed that the person who committed this act was someone who sought protection and asylum.

“This would be particularly sickening for the many Germans who work to help refugees every day, and for the many people who really need our help, and are making an effort to integrate into our country.

“We don’t want to have to live with fear that paralyses us. . . We will find the strength to live life the way we want to live in Germany. Free, together, and open.”

In July, Islamic State claimed responsibility for a terror attack in Nice, where 86 people were killed by a man who drove a lorry into crowds celebrating Bastille Day (News, 15 July).

Some have traced the attack directly to Dr Merkel’s immigration policy, which has led to more than a million migrants’ arriving in the country in the past two years, many of them fleeing war zones. “They are Merkel’s dead,” Marcus Pretzell, an MEP for the Alternative for Germany party, tweeted, referring to the victims. The UKIP MEP Nigel Farage said that the attack would be “the Merkel legacy”.

“The tragedy in Berlin — a place I know well — should not be the cause of political posturing, especially here in the UK,” Bishop Baines, a German linguist who has worked at GCHQ, said. “There is no such thing as total security, and little protection from determined terrorists. But selective hindsight is too easy for spectators from a distance: if one asylum-seeker has done a terrible thing, this still means a million others have not. We should pray for the people of Berlin, the injured and bereaved, and those with responsibility for dealing with this tragedy.”

The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, has written to the Evangelical Church in Germany's Bishop of Berlin, Dr Markus Droege, to express his condolences. The Diocese has had a formal partnership with the Diocese of Berlin-Brandenburg since 1999.

"As the Bishop of a City which has also experienced terrorism, my heart goes out to the bereaved and injured," he wrote. "This attack on hospitable Germany is felt deeply here."

On Tuesday, people filed into the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which was rebuilt after bombing raids during the Second World War, as a monument to peace, to sign a book of condolence. A memorial service was due to take place in the evening.

The attack in Berlin took place on the same evening as a Turkish policeman shot dead the Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, at a photography exhibition in Ankara. The gunman shouted references to Russian involvement in Aleppo.

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