Saturday 24 August 2019

Berlin attacker thought to have fled through Netherlands

Twelve people were killed in the attack (AP)
Twelve people were killed in the attack (AP)

A Tunisian man has been arrested on suspicion of being involved in last week's truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin.

German federal prosecutors said the 40-year-old was detained during a search of his home and business.

Officials said the man's number was saved in the mobile phone of Anis Amri, a fellow Tunisian believed to have driven a truck into the market on December 19.

They said further investigations indicate that the arrested man "may have been involved in the attack".

Twelve people died in the attack in the German capital.

Prosecutors have until Thursday evening to determine whether the case against the man holds up to the extent they can seek a formal arrest warrant.

This would allow them to keep him in custody pending possible charges.

Investigators are trying to determine whether Amri had a support network in planning and carrying out the attack, and in fleeing Berlin.

They are also trying to piece together the route he took from Berlin to Milan, where he was killed in a shoot-out with Italian police.

Italian police have said Amri travelled through France, and French authorities said he made a stop in the eastern city of Lyon.

Dutch authorities said it appeared Amri first had fled through the Netherlands, Germany's western neighbour.

Jirko Patist, a spokesman for the Dutch national prosecutor's office, said it was "highly likely" that Amri had been in Nijmegen, in the eastern Netherlands, during his journey from Berlin to Milan.

Camera images recovered in Nijmagen "found someone we think, rather of whom we say it is highly likely," is the same person appearing in photos from Lyon in France, Mr Patist told Netherlands public broadcaster NOS.

Mr Patist added that there was no reason to think the suspect was accompanied by any one person while in the Netherlands.

A SIM card found on the fugitive after he was shot led authorities to the Netherlands.

"We can see that the SIM cards like this have been distributed in several locations in the Netherlands," he said.

Amri had no phone with him in Milan, only the loose SIM card.

According to Italian police, Amri also had a pocket knife and a few hundred euro in cash in a backpack that he was carrying when officers on a routine patrol stopped him to ask for identification in the Milan suburb of Sesto San Giovanni on Friday.

He also carried a .22 pistol that he then used to shoot a police officer, hitting him in the shoulder.

The Italian investigator said the weapon appeared to be the same one used in Germany to kill the Polish driver of the truck that was commandeered for the Christmas market attack, but that final ballistic tests are still being carried out.

The body of the Polish driver, Lukasz Urban, was returned to Poland on Tuesday, said Aldoma Lema, a spokeswoman for prosecutors in the Polish city of Szczecin.

There has been speculation over whether Mr Urban was still alive at the time of the attack and struggled with Amri. His body was found in the truck's cab.

German daily Bild reported on Tuesday, without citing sources, that post-mortem results showed Mr Urban was shot in the head several hours before the attack and would have been dead or unconscious by that time.

Ms Lema said she could not give the time of his death. Another post-mortem was performed in Poland on Wednesday and preliminary findings will not be known for three weeks, she said.

German media has reported that investigators believe an emergency braking system in the truck may have prevented more deaths.

Daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and public broadcaster NDR cited unnamed officials familiar with the investigation saying that the tractor unit was equipped with a system that automatically slams the brakes when a collision is detected.

The news outlets also reported that Amri, whom German authorities had deemed a potential threat months before the attack, allegedly searched the internet for instructions on how to make explosives and first attempted to contact the Islamic State group in February.


PA Media

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