MILAN – The Berlin Christmas market attacker, Tunisian suspect Anis Amri, 24 was shot dead at a police checkpoint near Milan, according to Italian officials, bringing an end to an international manhunt that had kept the continent on edge as the holidays fast approached.
Anis Amri is Dead, Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti said, after a dramatic 3:30 a.m. encounter at a routine checkpoint in the Piazza I Maggio in the Sesto San Giovanni area of greater Milan.
Two officers spotted Amri on foot, and requested his identification. Amri, Minniti said, responded by pulling a gun, shooting one officer in the shoulder.
The other officer fired back and killed him, brining an end to the hunt for the most wanted man in Europe.
Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni told reporters that he called German Chancellor Angela Merkel to relay the news.
In Germany officials held a press conference and said they could not yet “officially confirm” Amri’s death, but were working “closely” with the Italians to do so. A German security official briefed on the case said that the Italians had identified Amri via a confirmed fingerprint match.
While Amri’s death ended an international manhunt for the suspect who drove a truck into a teeming Christmas market, killing 12 and wounding dozens, it also raised a whole new set of questions.
How was Amri able to travel some 644 miles across the heart of Europe, evading European dragnets for at least two days after authorities had identified him as the prime suspect.
Why did German investigators only uncovered their single largest clue, (his wallet) with identification left in the truck’s cabin the following day after arresting the wrong man in the attack.
By heading to Italy, Amri was, to some extent, retracing his steps. He had first arrived in Europe in April 2011 on the Italian island of Lampedusa, and spent four years in jail in Sicily, where Italian officials believe he was radicalized.
Amri had a criminal record in Europe and his native Tunisia. Sought in his native Tunisia for hijacking a van with a gang of thieves, the Italians jailed him in 2011 for arson and violent assault at his migrant reception center for minors on the isle of Sicily.
The Italian Bureau of Prisons submitted a report to a government anti-terrorism commission on Amri’s rapid radicalization, warning that he was embracing dangerous ideas of Islamist extremism and had threatened Christian inmates, according to an Italian government official with knowledge of the situation.
The Italians tried to deport Amri but couldn’t. They sent his fingerprints and photo to the Tunisian consulate, but the authorities there refused to recognize Amri as a citizen.
The Italians, officials there say, could not even establish his true identity.
Italy’s solution: After four years in jail, they released him anyway — giving him seven days to leave the country.
German efforts to deport him also failed because Tunisia had initially refused to take him back.
Amri appears to have attempted to manipulate the German asylum system — an inundated bureaucracy clogged with a backlog of more than 400,000 cases following the arrival of 1.2 million asylum seekers over the course of the past two years.
Meanwhile, Reuters has reported that German police made two arrests in what they say was a planned attack on a major shopping mall in Oberhausen.
German police said they had thwarted yet another terror attack planned against a shopping mall and arrested two brothers from Kosovo.
It’s not clear if the suspects have links to the Berlin Christmas market attack on Monday.
By Anthony Faiola – Washington Post | Agence France-Presse (AFP)