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Berlin Christmas Market Attack Suspect Shot Dead By Italian Police

  • RFE/RL

A combo photo shows portraits taken from the arrest warrant for Anis Amri.

Italy’s interior minister said the suspect in the Berlin Christmas market truck attack that killed 12 people was shot dead by Italian police in a suburb of Milan.

Tunisian national Anis Amri was stopped in his car at about 3 a.m. on December 23 by two police officers for a routine identity check, Interior Minister Marco Minniti told a press conference in Rome.

Amri pulled a pistol from his backpack and shot the policeman who had asked for his documents. He was killed as police fired back, Minniti said.

Authorities have conducted all necessary checks and found that "the person killed, without a shadow of a doubt, is Anis Amri, the suspect of the terrorist attack [in Berlin]," Minniti said.

Italian police and forensics experts gather around the body of suspected Berlin truck attacker Anis Amri after he was shot dead in Milan on December 23.
Italian police and forensics experts gather around the body of suspected Berlin truck attacker Anis Amri after he was shot dead in Milan on December 23.

Minniti said the injuries sustained by the police officer who was shot are not life-threatening. He praised the two officers, saying they “have done an extraordinary service to the community."

Amri, 24, became the target of a Europewide manhunt after German authorities said they believed he was the attacker who drove a large truck laden with steel into a Christmas market late on December 19, killing 12 people and injuring 48.

The extremist group Islamic State said on December 20 that it had inspired the attack, calling the assailant "a soldier of the Islamic State" who acted "in response to calls to target nationals of the coalition countries."

The same IS-affiliated news agency that issued that announcement said on December 23 that the perpetrator of the Berlin attack carried out a new attack against an Italian police patrol in Milan and was killed in a shootout.

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said he personally told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Amri was killed in Milan.

The attack, and indications that Amri had at one point been on German police’s radar, has stoked anger toward Merkel and her government’s policies toward migrants.

The right-wing political party known as AfD, whose popularity has surged amid growing dissatisfication toward migration policies, lambasted Merkel earlier this week .

Merkel, meanwhile, ordered an investigation into the fact that German authorities had tracked Amri for months on suspicion of planning an attack.

"We can be relieved at the end of this week that one acute danger has been ended," she said in Berlin. "But the danger of terrorism as a whole remains, as it has for many years -- we all know that."

German Chief Federal Prosecutor Peter Frank said investigators are trying to determine whether Amri had help from a network of supporters in planning the attack and then fleeing to Italy.

Authorities in Milan were able to identify Amri with help from fingerprints provided by German authorities, Frank said.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said that Amri’s death does not reduce the extremist threat to Germany. The threat "remains high" in Germany and security won't be scaled down, he said.

According to the German news agency dpa, Amri arrived in Italy in February 2011 among thousands of migrants from Tunisia who crossed the Mediterranean in the wake of the Arab Spring upheaval.

On October 23, 2011, he was arrested on suspicion of arson, assault, intimidation, and embezzlement, and was later sentenced to four years in prison.

Amri was released from prison in May 2015 and two months later entered Germany. Amri’s application for asylum was reportedly rejected by Germany.

With reporting by dpa, AP, AFP, and Reuters
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