Monday 19 August 2019

Blunders let terror suspect slip police net

Germany failed in bid to deport Tunisian in June

Europe-wide manhunt: suspect Anis Amri (24) Photo: German police via AP
Europe-wide manhunt: suspect Anis Amri (24) Photo: German police via AP

Justin Huggler

The prime suspect for the Berlin massacre was under covert surveillance for months as a possible terrorist threat until police let him slip through their grasp earlier this month.

Anis Amri (24), a Tunisian asylum seeker who arrived in Germany last year, was investigated for "preparing a serious crime endangering national safety", involving funding the purchase of automatic weapons for use in a terrorist attack.

Amri had been arrested earlier this year and was known to be a supporter of the terrorist group thought to be behind the Sousse terrorist attack in Tunisia, as well as being a suspected disciple of a notorious hate preacher.

He had multiple identity documents with six different aliases under three nationalities, and a criminal record in Italy and Tunisia. He spent four years in an Italian prison before travelling to Germany after an expulsion order expired.

The German authorities, who were facing serious questions yesterday about how Amri was still at large, tried to deport him in June, but because he had no valid papers proving his nationality he was allowed to stay.

In a further twist, Germany had asked Tunisia to issue a new passport for him so he could be deported, but the document only arrived yesterday - two days after the Christmas market attack that claimed 12 lives.

It also emerged that the killer might have received hospital treatment for his injuries before slipping away.

German police asked for "vigilance" as they said a second attack was possible.

Twelve of the most seriously injured people from Monday's attack remained in hospital last night.

As the hunt for Europe's most wanted man continued, yet more pressure was piled on Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, who was already facing criticism from opponents and supporters alike over her 'open door' refugee policy that allowed migrants into the country without vetting.

Mrs Merkel is receiving regular updates on the huge manhunt for Amri, whose name was found on documents under the driver's seat in the cab of the lorry used in the attack.

The hunt spread across Europe, with police conceding that the suspect could have travelled hundreds of miles since Monday night's outrage.

"When I saw the picture of my brother in the media, I couldn't believe my eyes. I'm in shock, and can't believe it's him who committed this crime. If he's guilty, he deserves every condemnation," his brother Abdelkader Amri said from his home in Tunisia.

Police are believed to have found Amri's blood in the lorry's cab. They now assume that whoever was driving the lorry was badly injured, either when pieces of wood smashed through the windscreen or in a fight with Lucasz Urban, the Polish driver.

His life came to an end when he was shot in the head by the hijacker.

Irish Independent

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