Police investigating the Berlin lorry attack believe they may have the wrong man and the real suspect could still be on the loose.
A Pakistani asylum seeker who was arrested over the attack on a market in the German capital has denied he is responsible, with reports that the person behind it may be armed and still at large.
The suspect, a 23-year-old who came to Germany on December 31 last year, was captured by police in the aftermath of the incident which left 12 people dead and dozens more injured.
But German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere said the man has denied any involvement, and Berlin’s police chief Klaus Kandt has said officials are unsure whether they have detained the real suspect.
According to German newspaper Die Welt, a police spokesman said: “We have got the wrong man, which means a new situation, because the actual attacker is still armed and free and can cause more damage.”
Mr Kandt told reporters that police “haven’t been able to confirm” whether the man held was the lorry’s driver.
Twelve people died and 48 were injured - some seriously - when the vehicle rammed into a market taking place outside the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church on Monday evening.
The Polish owner of the lorry, Ariel Zurawski, told TVN24 he feared the vehicle may have been hijacked and said “they must have done something to my driver”.
Images on social media showed a damaged black truck with a smashed windscreen among debris at the scene.
Blue lights from dozens of emergency vehicles flashed on the deserted wooden stalls of the Berlin City Weihnachtsmarkt at Breitschiedplatz today.
From a police cordon on the opposite side of the street, the articulated lorry that caused so much destruction could be seen by a knocked-down Christmas tree.
Large numbers of heavily armed police stood by the wooden stalls of the market, which were lit up with white Christmas lights.
There are more than 100 stalls from around the world at the market, selling traditional decorations, festive food and drink and children’s toys.
Emergency services arrived at the scene shortly after the incident was reported - their nearest station is just a three-minute walk away.
It happened at the popular market on Kurfurstendamm, the main shopping street in West Berlin.
Above the market stands the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which was badly damaged in a bombing raid in the Second World War.
The area would normally be bustling with tourists and shoppers but the vast majority of those there following the incident were members of the press.
Police had appealed for residents to stay indoors, as well as for all emergency vehicles to come to the site to help.
Help enforcing the cordon around the site came from security staff from a nearby railway station, who cleared the roads for emergency vehicles to get through.
Sirens blared across the streets continuously as the ambulances and police vehicles arrived and left.
Briton Emma Rushton, who was in the market, saw the lorry rush past her at speed and said it could not have been an accident.
Ms Rushton told Sky News: “The stall that we bought our mulled wine from was completely crushed. People were tearing off wooden panels to get out.”
She added: “It was not an accident. It was going 40mph, it was in the middle of the market. There was no way that it could have come off the road and it showed no signs of slowing down.”
Jan Hollitzer, 36, deputy editor-in-chief of local news outlet Berliner Morgenpost, said the market fell “silent” following the truck attack as shocked visitors looked on the devastation.
He told the Press Association that he had seen “more than one” person lying under the vehicle.
As the incident unfolded, Berlin Police urged people to stay at home and refrain from spreading rumours.
White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price earlier said the US condemned the incident as an apparent terror attack.
He said: “The United States condemns in the strongest terms what appears to have been a terrorist attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, Germany, which has killed and wounded dozens.”
President-elect Donald Trump also branded it an act of terrorism, tweeting: “Today there were terror attacks in Turkey, Switzerland and Germany - and it is only getting worse.”
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson tweeted his condolences following the “terrible tragedy”, while the Foreign Office warned Britons travelling to Germany of a high risk from terrorism.
In advice updated after the crash, it said: “There may be increased security in place over the Christmas and New Year period, including at Christmas markets and other major events that might attract large crowds.
“You should remain vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities.”
It is understood the market is a regular festive treat for shoppers and includes stands that offer seasonal foods such as bratwurst, sweet waffles, candied fruits as well as mulled wine and homemade eggnog.
Facebook has activated a safety check feature for travellers and locals on the social network.