Friday 23 August 2019

Berlin attack: Christmas market re-opens as manhunt continues with hopes for an arrest 'soon'

Angela Merkel has said she hopes for an arrest "soon"

Walid, brother of suspect Anis Amri who is sought in relation with the truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, speaks to members of the media near their home in Oueslatia, Tunisia December 22, 2016. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
Walid, brother of suspect Anis Amri who is sought in relation with the truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, speaks to members of the media near their home in Oueslatia, Tunisia December 22, 2016. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

Michelle Martin and Michael Nienaber

The Christmas market which was targeted in a horror truck attack, which claimed 12 lives, has re-opened to the public, as a manhunt for the suspect continues.

German investigators believe there is a "high probability" that the Tunisian suspect they are hunting in connection with Monday's attack on a Berlin Christmas market is the perpetrator, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said on Thursday.

Anis Amri. picture: German federal Police
Anis Amri. picture: German federal Police
Nour, mother of suspect Anis Amri who is sought in relation with the truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, reacts near their home in Oueslatia, Tunisia December 22, 2016. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

"We can report today that we have new information that the suspect is with high probability really the perpetrator," de Maiziere told reporters.

"In the cab, in the driving cabin, fingerprints were found and there is additional evidence that support this," he added.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, appearing alongside de Maiziere at the Federal Office of Criminal Investigation, said she hoped the perpetrator would be arrested soon.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack in which a truck smashed through wooden huts selling gifts, mulled wine and sausages on Monday evening. It was the deadliest attack on German soil since 1980.

The media did not name their source for the report about 24-year-old Anis Amri's fingerprints and police declined to comment.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she hopes for an arrest "soon". German prosecutors will provide an update on the investigation at 5pm today.

The market in Berlin reopened surrounded by concrete bollards.

Meanwhile, one of Amri's brothers has urged him to turn himself in.

Walid, brother of suspect Anis Amri who is sought in relation with the truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, speaks to members of the media near their home in Oueslatia, Tunisia December 22, 2016. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
Walid, brother of suspect Anis Amri who is sought in relation with the truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, speaks to members of the media near their home in Oueslatia, Tunisia December 22, 2016. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
Police patrol among people at the re-opened Christmas market at Breitscheid square in Berlin, Germany, December 22, 2016, following an attack by a truck which ploughed through a crowd at the market on Monday night. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Abdelkader Amri said: "I ask him to turn himself in to the police. If it is proved that he is involved, we dissociate ourselves from it."

He said Amri may have been radicalised in prison in Italy, where he went after leaving Tunisia in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings.

The Berlin attack has raised concerns across Europe in the approach to Christmas, with markets in France, target of a series of militant attacks over the last year, tightening security with concrete barriers. Troops were also being posted at churches.

The Berlin market reopened on Thursday ringed by concrete bollards.

Police in the western German city of Dortmund arrested four people who had been in contact with Amri, media reports said, but a spokesman for the chief federal prosecutor denied that and said he would give no further details on the operation.

Bild newspaper cited an anti-terrorism investigator as saying it was clear in spring that Amri was looking for accomplices for an attack and was interested in weapons.

ASYLUM REQUEST REJECTED

The report said preliminary proceedings had been opened against Amri in March based on information he was planning a robbery to get money to buy automatic weapons and "possibly carry out an attack".

In mid-2016, he spoke to two IS fighters and Tunisian authorities listened in on their conversation before informing German authorities. Amri also offered himself as a suicide attacker on known Islamist chat sites, Bild said.

Police started looking for Amri after finding an identity document under the driver's seat of the truck used in the attack. Authorities have stressed he is just a suspect and not necessarily the driver of the truck.

Broadcaster rbb said the perpetrator lost both his wallet and mobile phone while running away from the attack site.

On Wednesday, Ralf Jaeger, interior minister of the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), said the Tunisian appeared to have arrived in Germany in July 2015 and his asylum application had been rejected in June 2016.

Klaus Bouillon, head of the group of interior ministers from Germany's federal states, said Islamists often left identity documents at attack sites - as was the case in Paris attacks - to steer public opinion against refugees.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has faced calls to tighten asylum procedures since the attack. Armin Schuster of her Christian Democrats, told broadcaster NDR: "We need to send the signal: Only set off for Germany if you have a reason for asylum."

The Italian Foreign Ministry said an Italian woman named Fabrizia Di Lorenzo was among the victims and the Israeli Foreign Ministry said an Israeli woman called Dalia Elyakim had been identified among the dead.

Reuters

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