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Berlin attack suspect killed by police near Milan

The man suspected of attacking a Berlin Christmas market has been shot dead by police near Milan in Italy, closing a chapter on one of Germany’s worst terrorist incidents.

Anis Amri, a 24-year-old Tunisian with links to Italy, died after being confronted by police near the Italian city early yesterday. Isis later released a video of Amri pledging allegiance to the militant group and promising to “slaughter” the “crusaders” in revenge for what he called the shedding of Muslim blood.

Twelve people were killed and almost 50 injured when a stolen truck was rammed into a crowd buying souvenirs and drinking mulled wine in the shadow of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, one of Berlin’s most distinctive landmarks.

Investigators concluded that it was Amri who was at the wheel of the truck after his fingerprints were found in the vehicle’s cab. They had also found his ID papers in a wallet left in the cab.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said the Amri case raised questions about the time he had spent in Germany since his arrival in July 2015. She said the authorities would focus on “who knew about [his] crime, and who may have helped or covered for him”, adding that they would look at whether laws needed to be changed after the attack.

Marco Minniti, Italian interior minister, said Amri was stopped by police for a routine check at about 3am when he pulled out a gun and fired at police. One policeman had been injured but his wounds were not life-threatening, the minister said.

Thomas de Maizière, Germany’s interior minister, said investigations would continue into Amri’s network. He said despite Amri’s death, the terrorist threat in Germany remained high.

According to Italian media reports, Amri arrived in Italy by train from the Savoy region in south-eastern France.

Peter Frank, Germany’s chief federal prosecutor, said investigators would look at how Amri had been able to cross from Germany into Italy. “That is, for us, one of the central objects of our further investigations,” he said.

Pictures of Anis Amri released by German police © Reuters

Paolo Gentiloni, Italy’s prime minister, said the episode highlighted the importance of international co-operation on security issues.

Amri spent time in Italy before moving to Germany. According to one Italian official, he arrived there in the aftermath of the 2011 Tunisian revolution and spent three-and-a-half years in an Italian jail after burning down the refugee hostel he had been living in.

He moved to Germany in 2015 and applied for asylum but his request was rejected in June this year. Authorities tried to deport him, but Tunisia refused to recognise him as its citizen.

Ms Merkel said she had told Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi that the country had to accept more rejected asylum seekers and speed up deportations.

There has been mounting evidence that Amri was known to the authorities for months as a potential terrorist with close links to the German jihadi scene. He had been under police surveillance between March and September this year.

Monday’s attack has revived criticism of Ms Merkel’s decision to open Germany’s borders to hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers at the height of last year’s migrant crisis.

Mr de Maizière said the time had come to “talk about consequences” of the attack. He said a bill was being prepared which would place foreigners with suspected Islamist sympathies in special detention centres and speed up their deportation.

Security officials have long warned that militant groups such as Isis were smuggling operatives into Germany under cover of the migrant wave.

Ms Merkel said many in Germany would be relieved that the Amri case was over but warned that the threat of terrorism remained. “Our democracy . . . our values and our humanity are the alternative to the hate-filled world of terrorism, and they will be stronger than terrorism,” she said.

Via FT