German officials face scrutiny after Berlin attack suspect’s death

Angela Merkel says killing of Anis Amri ends ‘acute danger’ amid claims of security flaws

The man shot by Milan police in the early hours of Friday was 'without any shadow of a doubt' the Berlin lorry attack suspect, Italy's interior minister says. Video: Reuters

 

Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Berlin’s Monday night Christmas market attack has thrown up “a series of questions” requiring urgent answers, hours after the attack’s chief suspect died in a shoot-out in Italy.

Anis Amri, a 24-year-old Tunisian man, died after being shot by a Milanese police officer at 3am, after arriving in the northern Italian city by train via Chambéry in France and Turin.

When challenged by the police officers he claimed, in Italian, to be from Calabria in the south, but officers were suspicious and asked him to identify himself.

“Without hesitation he took out a pistol . . . and shot the policeman who had asked him for ID,” said Marco Minniti, Italian interior minister, at a news conference.

A second officer shot the Tunisian twice in the chest and he died 10 minutes later at the scene.

Amri’s death came a day after German investigators revealed his fingerprints had been found on the door handle and steering wheel of the lorry that crashed into a Berlin Christmas market, killing 12 and injuring 48.

On Friday, Dr Merkel thanked Italy and wished a speedy recovery to Christian Movio, the Milanese police officer shot in the shoulder during the standoff.

‘Hate-filled world’

The death of Amri had ended the “acute danger” facing Germany, she said.

Despite the challenges posed by Islamist violence, she insisted Germany’s “democracy, values and humanity” would prove stronger than the “hate-filled world of terrorism”.

“It is the uppermost priority of this government to protect its citizens,” she said, “and we will do everything humanly possibly to ensure that our state is a strong state.”

Among the measures to improve domestic security, she said, were tighter refugee laws and speedier deportation of failed asylum seekers such as Amri.

He swore loyalty to Islamic State (Isis) in a video released on Friday but apparently recorded some months ago.

Even after their chief suspect’s death, German authorities said their investigation into Monday evening’s attack – in particular the hunt for accomplices – will continue.

Sporadic surveillance

Investigators are also likely to come under scrutiny to explain overlooked evidence and missed leads.

After his arrival in Germany in July 2015, Amri’s Isis sympathies meant German intelligence services classified him as a security threat, one of about 550 such people in the country.

But he was only placed under sporadic surveillance and, following the rejection of his asylum application and a looming deportation, he vanished.

He disappeared from view until police found his ID in the cabin of the truck that ploughed into the market.

On Friday, Moroccan security services said they had warned German intelligence in September and again in October that Amri was planning an attack.

The attacks have prompted scathing criticism from Dr Merkel’s Bavarian allies – long critical of her liberal asylum policy – and have given a boost to the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD).

Far-right Front National leader Marine Le Pen said Amri’s journey from Berlin to Milan via France highlighted the “total security disaster” of the EU’s passport-free Schengen area.