The claim on the official Amaq media channel was short and distressingly familiar: A “soldier of the Islamic State” was behind yet another attack on civilians in Europe, this time at a festive Christmas market in Berlin.

The accuracy of the claim remained in question Tuesday as German authorities searched for both a suspect and a motive behind the deadly truck assault on holiday revelers. But already it appeared that the attack had achieved one of the Islamic State’s stated objectives: spreading fear and chaos in a Western country in hopes of sharpening the divide between Muslims and everyone else.

Terrorism experts likened the claim to a declaration of all-out war against a country that until now had seen little of the terrorist violence that has rocked its ­Francophone neighbors. Germany, with its large Muslim community and recent history of political discord over Muslim immigration, has long been viewed by the militant group as an important strategic target, despite the country’s reputation for tolerance.


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