The Tunisian man suspected in a deadly attack on a Christmas market in Berlin was killed early today in a shootout with police in Milan during a routine patrol, ending a Europe-wide manhunt.
Italian police said Anis Amri travelled from Germany through France and into Italy after the attack. At least some of his travels were by train.
French officials refused to comment on his passage through France, despite increased surveillance on its trains after both recent French attacks and the Berlin massacre.
Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni praised the two young police officers for their courage in taking down Amri during a routine check of ID papers. But he also called for greater cross-border police co-operation, suggesting dismay that Amri was able to easily move through Europe’s open borders despite being Europe’s No. 1 fugitive.
Amri was identified with the help of fingerprints supplied by Germany.
“The person killed, without a shadow of a doubt, is Anis Amri, the suspect of the Berlin terrorist attack,” said Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack outside Berlin’s Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, where a truck plowed into a crowd of shoppers, killing 12 people and injuring 56 others. ISIS also claimed responsibility for the Milan shooting.
A video released by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) shows Amri pledging allegiance to its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and vowing to fight against what he calls “the Crusader pigs.”
The video, which appeared to have been taken by Amri himself, shows him standing on a footbridge in the north of Berlin, not far from where he allegedly hijacked the truck used in the attack that killed 12 people and injured dozens on Monday.
It is unclear whether the video, released online Friday, was taken before or after the attack.
Amri has also been linked to an extremist recruitment network allegedly run by Ahmad Abdulaziz Abdullah A., also known as Abu Walaa, a Germany-based preacher who was arrested last month, said Holger Muench, the head of the Federal Criminal Police Office.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she has ordered a comprehensive investigation into all angles of the case after it emerged that German authorities had tracked Amri for months on suspicion of planning an attack.
“We can be relieved at the end of this week that one acute danger has been ended,” she said in Berlin. “But the danger of terrorism as a whole remains, as it has for many years — we all know that.”
Milan, Rome and other cities have been on heightened alert since the Berlin attack, with increased surveillance and police patrols. Italian officials stressed that the young officers who stopped Amri didn’t suspect he was the attacker, but rather grew suspicious because he was a north African man, alone outside a deserted train station at 3 a.m.
Amri, 24, who had spent time in prison in Italy, was stopped by two officers during a routine patrol in the Sesto San Giovanni neighbourhood of Milan early Friday. He pulled a gun from his backpack after being asked to show his identification and was killed in an ensuing shootout.
One of the officers, Christian Movio, 35, was shot in the right shoulder and underwent surgery for a superficial wound, and was in good condition. Movio’s 29-year-old partner, Luca Scata, fatally shot Amri in the chest.
Travelled through Europe
Amri passed through France before arriving by train at Milan’s central station, where video surveillance showed him at around 1 a.m. Friday, Milan police Chief Antonio de Iesu said. A train ticket indicates that he travelled from Chambery, France, through Turin and into Milan, an Italian anti-terrorism official said.
De Iesu declined to provide further information, citing the ongoing investigation.
A Milan anti-terrorism official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk publicly about the investigation, said Amri made his way to the piazza outside the Sesto San Giovanni train station in a suburb of Milan, which is 7.5 kilometres from the main train station.
Two police officers became suspicious because it was 3 a.m., the station was closed and Amri was alone. He had no ID, no phone and only a pocket knife on him, as well as the loaded 22-calibre pistol.
“He was a ghost,” de Iesu said, adding that he was stopped because of basic police work, intensified surveillance “and a little luck.”
Questions about associates
Authorities are still trying to determine how Amri arrived at the piazza because only a few buses operate at that hour.
“It is now of great significance for us to establish whether the suspect had a network of supporters or helpers in preparing and carrying out the crime, and in fleeing; whether there were accessories or helpers,” German chief federal prosecutor Paul Frank said.
Prosecutors also want to know whether the gun Amri was carrying in Milan was the same one used to shoot the Polish driver of the truck he had commandeered for the attack, Frank added. The driver was found dead in the vehicle’s cab.
The Milan anti-terrorism official said investigators also are working to determine what contacts, if any, Amri had in Milan. There is no evidence he ever passed through Milan during his previous stay in Italy, where he spent time after leaving Tunisia in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.
’Buried the secret with him’
Amri’s mother fears the world will now never know why he allegedly rammed a truck through a holiday crowd.
Nour El Houda Hassani told The Associated Press on Friday that “within him is a great secret. They killed him, and buried the secret with him.”
Speaking in his impoverished Tunisian hometown of Oueslatia, she begged for his remains to be brought home. She says “I want the truth about my son. Who was behind him?”
Amri’s brother Abdelkader wept as he said “my brother is dead. Bring us his remains, even one of his fingers, and I will put it in my pocket. … They killed him when he was still only a suspect. Why?”