Post Eagle Newspaper

Saturday

May 18, 2024

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12:00:00

Polish Trucker – Hero
of Berlin Terrorist Attack

By Robert Strybel
Warsaw Correspondent

WARSAW–Christmas in Poland was marred this year by a terrorist attack in Berlin, the capital of neighboring Germany, a mere 52 miles from the Polish border. There a Muslim refugee used a Polish-owned truck as a murder weapon when he plowed into a Berlin Christmas market milling with shoppers and tourists. He left 12 people dead, and 48 injured, some critically. The truck’s Polish driver, 37-year-old Łukasz Urban, was found in the cab dead of gunshot wounds. 

German police initially detained a 23-year-old Pakistani refugee on suspicion of the crime but released him a few days later for lack of evidence. A European-wide manhunt was then launched for Anis Amri, a 24-year-old Tunisian migrant whose ID card and fingerprints were found in the truck’s cab. He was found to have a long police record and was suspected of links to the Islamic State terrorist organization. Stopped for a routine check on the outskirts of Milan, Italy four days after the attack, he opened fire on police officers and was shot dead in the exchange. The terrorist was using the same weapon with which he shot Urban.

Urban, employed by a transport firm based in the northern Polish town of Gryfino, was hauling 24 tons of steel from Italy to Berlin, where he was attacked and had his truck hijacked. The autopsy revealed that before being shot the Pole had suffered numerous knife wounds when he struggled with the terrorist and seized the steering wheel to prevent him from driving into a bigger crowd. The Pole was probably still alive when the 40-ton semi-trailer truck smashed into the crowded Christmas market.

When he heard of the tragedy, English lorry driver Dave Duncan launched a fund-raising campaign to help the family of Polish fellow-trucker Urban whose death orphaned a wife and 17-year-old son. In just two days, 3,600 responded raising over $54,000. Net-surfers are appealing to German President Joachim Gauck to honor the Pole’s heroism by posthumously granting him Germany’s Cross of Merit. Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło has announced that the widow and orphaned son of heroic trucker Łukasz Urban would receive a special pension.

Christmas markets, clusters of wooden huts selling Yule-related goods as well as grilled sausages and hot mulled wine, are a popular holiday attraction in European cities. Following the attack, police across Europe tightened security at such markets and other public gathering places. This and earlier terrorist attacks as well as the refugee crisis in general have greatly eroded the authority of German Chancellor Angela Merkel who opened her country’s doors to nearly one million asylum-seekers in 2015.