President-elect Donald Trump depicted the Dec. 19 attack on the Christmas Market in Berlin as an attack on Christians.
“Our hearts and prayers are with the loved ones of the victims of today’s horrifying terror attack in Berlin,” Trump said in a statement after the incident. “Innocent civilians were murdered in the streets as they prepared to celebrate the Christmas holiday. ISIS and other Islamist terrorists continually slaughter Christians in their communities and places of worship as part of their global jihad.”
Trump added: “These terrorists and their regional and worldwide networks must be eradicated from the face of the earth, a mission we will carry out with all freedom-loving partners.”
The Guardian pointed out that, while Trump's statement pitted Islam against Christianity, German President Joachim Gauck pleaded for solidarity among different religious and ethnic groups.
“The hatred of the perpetrators will not seduce to hate,” Gauck said. “It will not drive a wedge through our coexistence. We will reach out to each other, we will talk to each other and we will care for each other.”
Before releasing the official statement, Trump tweeted his thoughts about the Berlin attack, in which 12 people died, as well as the fatal shooting of a Russian ambassador in Turkey that same day.
“Today there were terror attacks in Turkey, Switzerland and Germany - and it is only getting worse. The civilized world must change thinking!” Trump wrote.
Elizabeth Saunders, an assistant political science professor at George Washington University, told The Guardian that Trump's words were indicative of his tendency to “fire off the cuff.”
“We go through these elections to vet presidents and hopefully hire someone who is calm and level-headed and [will] look at all the information,” she said. “We know that wars start for lots of reasons, but one reason is the problem of information. Countries sometimes misrepresent their policies and intentions and there can be misperceptions even if policy signals are sent sincerely.”
Little is known about the perpetrator of the Berlin attack, who has not yet been apprehended.
The prime suspect is 23-year-old Anis Amri, a Tunisian man who had been identified by German media as an asylum seeker, reported CBS News.
Amri is suspected of killing the driver of a large truck and then ramming the vehicle into a crowded Christmas shopping area in the heart of Berlin, killing 12 and injuring 50 others.