- At least 12 people killed after truck rammed into a Berlin market
- Another 50 people hurt, several critically injured
- Truck was registered in Poland, but police investigating who driver is
- Truck passenger died at the scene
- Australian cabaret singer's close call at deadly market
A SUSPECT has been detained by German police after a truck was deliberately driven into a packed Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people and injuring at least 50 more.
In what is suspected to be a terrorist attack, a large lorry was driven into a crowd gathered at the annual Christmas market near the Zoologische Garten train station in the heart of Berlin.
Screams rang out as people gathered in the market to drink mulled wine and shop for Christmas trinkets tried to flee the truck as it ploughed through the wooden stalls.
While Islamic State claimed responsibility for the incident, those responsible had not been publicly identified by police. The attack happened at 8.15pm local time (6.15am AEDT).
The driver of the Polish-registered truck fled the scene but was later arrested by police.
Security sources cited by DPA news agency said that the man behind the wheel was an asylum seeker from Afghanistan or Pakistan who arrived in Germany in February.
The daily Tagesspiegel said the man was known to police but for minor crimes, not links to terrorism.
A Berlin Police spokesman confirmed they had a suspect in custody.
"We've had a description of the driver, who was on the run at first. Because of this description, one suspect could be arrested," he said.
"We are now investigating whether the arrested person is actually the driver of the truck. The suspect was arrested nearby, a few hundred metres away from the scene of the attack."
The Polish owner of the lorry also confirmed his driver was missing. "We haven't heard from him since this afternoon. We don't know what happened to him. He's my cousin, I've known him since I was a kid. I can vouch for him," transport company owner Ariel Zurawski told AFP.
Ambulances and heavily armed police rushed to the area after the vehicle mounted the pavement of the market in a square popular with tourists, in horrific scenes reminiscent of July's deadly truck attack in the French Riviera city of Nice.
German federal president, Joachim Gauck, has issued a statement saying: "In my thoughts I am with the victims, with their families and with all those who fear for the safety of their friends and relatives. I thank the emergency services and the security forces for their hard work."
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told public television: "I don't want to use the word 'attack' yet, although there are many things pointing to one."
The horrific incident comes less than a week before Christmas.
Police asked crowds to stay away from the area as they closed down the streets and searched vehicles.
Hours earlier, the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, was murdered in front of the media and other guests at a photographic exhibition in the Turkish capital Ankara, by an off-duty Turkish policeman yelling about the Syrian city of Aleppo.
TURNBULL CONDEMNS BERLIN ATTACK
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has confirmed no Australian embassy staff in Berlin were injured in the attack overnight, but has not confirmed whether other Australian citizens were involved.
"The Australian Government utterly condemns the attack in Berlin overnight where we understand there has been nine deaths and over 50 injured," he said.
"We also condemn the cowardly assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey.
"We have seen a series of large terrorist attacks, mass casualty terrorist attacks in recent weeks: In Nigeria, in Yemen, in Istanbul, in Somalia, in Cairo, in Jordan over the weekend another attack, and last night in Berlin."
The Prime Minister moved to reassure Australians the government was taking action to prevent and anticipate these kinds of attacks.
"I want to say that I can reassure Australians that we have finest police and security forces in the world, we are keenly focused on keeping Australians safe, whether they are at a market or a New Year's Eve celebration, wherever they may be, nonetheless we cannot mitigate all risk entirely, but we are working night and day to keep Australians safe, and we are very attentive to events internationally, to ensure that we learn from them and make sure that we put measures in place to anticipate similar occurrences here," he said.
Mr Turnbull said the Berlin attack appeared to be similar to the attack in Nice earlier this year.
"Following that attack, I tasked my counter-terrorism coordinator to review all of our measures to protect mass attendance events from attacks like this, and we have been working with the State and Territory police forces to that end.
The Prime Minister said Australia's Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin had already spoken to his counterparts in the US and was ensuring both the US and Australia were prepared to anticipate attacks of this kind.
"We are also intensifying the steps that we have already set in place to ensure that we have the protective measures to respond to attacks such as that that we've seen in Berlin," he said.
Mr Turnbull had also been in contact with Australia's ambassadors in both Turkey and Berlin.
"We've also, of course, reached out to the Russian, and Turkish diplomatic staff here and on behalf of the Australian Government we send our condolences to the families of those who have been killed in Berlin, and the earlier attacks that I mentioned, and also our deepest sympathy to those that have been injured."
TERROR ATTACKS OF 2016
Libya, January 2016, Zliten truck bombing: Suicide truck bombing at a police training camp - 60 dead, 200 injured.
Turkey, January 2016, Istanbul bombing: Suicide bombing targeting foreign tourists in Sultanahmet Square - 12 dead, 14 injured.
Saudi Arabia, January 2016, Mahasen mosque attack: Suicide bombing and shooting targeting a Shi'a mosque - four dead, 18 injured.
Syria, February 2016, Homs bombings: Two car bombings in Homs targeting Alawite civilians - 57 dead, 100+ injured.
Syria, February 2016, Sayyidah Zaynab bombings: Car bombing and two suicide bombings targeting the Sayyidah Zaynab Mosque, a Shi'a mosque believed to contain the grave of Muhammad's granddaughter - 83 dead, 178 injured
Turkey, March 2016, Istanbul bombing: A suicide bomber exploded targeting civilians in a commercial shop on a busy tourist destination and business centre - four dead, 83 injured.
Belgium, March 2016, Brussels bombings: Suicide bombers attacked a metro station and an airport - 32 dead, 340 injured
Yemen, March 2016, Aden car bombing: Three suicide car bombings targeting military checkpoints - 26 dead, dozens injured.
Iraq, March 2016, Iraqi soccer stadium bombings: Suicide bomber detonated suicide bomb in stadium - 33 dead, 78 injured
Iraq, May 2016, Baghdad bombing: Four separate car bombings in the Iraqi capital Baghdad claimed at least 90 lives, police sources tell Al Jazeera - 90 dead, 100+ injured.
Iraq, May 2016, Real Madrid Fan Club massacre: Two separate incidents in which three gunmen and suicide bombers attacked Real Madrid football fans at a supporters' café - 28 dead, 45 injured
Yemen, May 2016, Yemen bombings: Two suicide bombings targeted army recruits - 45 dead, 60+ injured.