The terror group has claimed responsibility for the deadly attack at a Berlin Christmas market on Monday. Officials have warned that the perpetrator could still be on the loose.

The so-called "Islamic State" (IS) militant organization claimed responsibility for the attack on Tuesday, according to the group's news agency Amaq.

German prosecutors said on Tuesday evening there was insufficient evidence to link the 23-year-old Pakistani to the truck attack carried out a day earlier.

Berlin police admitted earlier that day that they may have apprehended the wrong suspect and warned the public to remain attentive and vigilant. 

"As far as I know, it is in fact uncertain whether that really was the driver," Berlin's police chief Klaus Kandt said Tuesday at a press conference.

On Tuesday night, following the announcement that the suspect had been released, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere echoed the police chief's statement, telling broadcaster ZDF that "it is true that one cannot rule out that the perpetrator is still at large." He also warned that it was too early to draw political conclusions from the incident.

Authorities had arrested the asylum seeker on suspicion of driving the truck that plowed into a crowd of people at aChristmas market in central Berlin Monday evening, killing 12 and injuring 48.

Deutsche Welle's Mischa Heuer provided exclusive photos of the Christmas market after the Berlin attack

De Maiziere had earlier confirmed that the incident had been an intentional attack. The suspect, de Maiziere said, had arrived in Germany on December 31, 2015 and applied for asylum.

A Polish man, who was in the passenger seat of the crashed truck, was found shot dead at the scene. De Maiziere admitted earlier that a gun had not been recovered.

However, the detained man denies any involvement in the attack. On Twitter, Berlin's police force, which has since admitted the suspect may still be at large and armed, wrote: "The temporarily arrested suspect denies the offence. Therefore we are particularly alert. Please also be alert." 

Ahead of Kandt's admission, Germany's Die Welt newspaper quoted security sources of saying the arrested man was not believed to be the perpetrator.

A Berlin police chief repoertedly told the paper: "We have the wrong man, and therefore a new situation. The true perpetrator is still armed, at large and can cause fresh damage."

Speaking to German news agency DPA following the press conference, Kandt said investigators were continuing to inspect the truck used in the attack, searching for finger prints, blood and smudge marks. "I estimate that the current investigation will take somewhat longer," he said, adding that it could take a few days before new evidence comes to light.

Uncertainty about Berlin attack suspect

'An act of terrorism'

Germany's two top prosecutors confirmed Tuesday that investigators are indeed treating Monday's incident as an act of terrorism, although no group has of yet claimed responsibility. However, prosecutor Peter Frank said that, given the target and nature of the attack, the incident pointed towards Islamist extremist motives.

Frank said the attack was reminiscent of July's terrorist attack in Nice, France, and of the "modus operandi" deployed by Islamist terror group. 

However, echoing Berlin's police officials, Frank also acknowledged that the detained suspect "may not have been the perpetrator or belong to the group of perpetrators."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who visited the crime scene on Tuesday afternoon, also referred to the incident as a "terrorist act." Speaking before the police made their admission about the detained suspect, Merkel acknowledged that the crime might have been comitted by an asylum seeker. 

Risk remains high

Berlin Mayor Michael Müller, Merkel and de Maiziere pay their respects at the crime scene

The head of Germany's Criminal Police Agency, Holger Münch, said he could not rule out if further suspects were still at large, and therefore warned of further attacks on the back of yesterday's incident. In the aftermath of such an event, "there's always a heightened risk of significant further attacks," he said. 

"We are "naturally on high alert and are investigating in all directions." Münch added.

He also revealed that six of the 12 people killed have been identified as Germans. He could not, however, identify the nationalities of the other six.

Berlin New Year's celebrations to go ahead amid heightened security

Also speaking Tuesday, Berlin interior minister Andreas Geisel confirmed that the city's New Year's Eve celebrations will go ahead under an increased security presence. Every year, hundreds of thousands of revelers ring in the New Year in front of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.

He said the city will review all of its security measures before the celebrations on December 31.

dm/rc (dpa, AP, Reuters)

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