Italian Police Didn't Realize Man Was Berlin Terror Attack Suspect Before Shootout

DANIELE BENNATI/AFP/Getty Images(MILAN) — The two Italian police officers who confronted and then shot and killed a man outside a closed train station in suburban Milan early Friday did not realize initially that he was the man suspected of driving a truck through a Christmas market in Berlin, which killed 12 and injured dozens, Milan police said.

Anis Amri, a 24-year-old Tunisian was near a train station in the Sesto San Giovani area at about 3 a.m. when he was approached by two officers, police said. The station was closed at the time.

“He was a man from northern Africa, like there are many in the Milan area, and ours was a routine check that was carried out by two young and good police officers,” Antonio de Iesu, the head of Milan police, said in a press conference Friday.

Amri shot at and wounded at least one of the officers when he was asked to present his documents. Police returned fire and killed him, Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti said. The wounded police officer was transported to a local hospital where he is recovering, according to the interior minister.

Italian authorities confirmed the man killed was Amri using fingerprints provided by German authorities, German Federal Prosecutor Peter Frank said.

In a video posted on social media that appears to have been recorded prior to the attack in Berlin, Amri pledges allegiance to ISIS and says he is avenging the bombing of Muslims and urges others around the world to take up the jihad.

“My message to the crusaders who bombard Muslims every day: With God’s will, I swear we’re coming to slaughter you, you pigs,” Amri says. “I encourage all my Muslim brothers in every place to conduct jihad in the name of the religion.”

Amri had few personal effects with him when he was shot dead in Italy, Milan police chief Iesu said, according to the Italian news agency Ansa.

“He did not have any other weapons with him, nor cell phones, only a small knife and few hundred euros,” Iesu said, according to Ansa. “He had few personal effects with him, nothing written.”

“It seems absurd that a terrorist of this sort was found casually during a routine check but this is the reality,” the head of police said, according to Ansa. “The policemen had no indication he was a killer.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel in speaking to the press praised European cooperation in fighting terror but called for faster deportations from Germany to Tunisia and said the “general threat of terrorism” continues.

“We can be relieved at the end of this week that one acute threat ended, but the general threat of terrorism continues,” Merkel said, adding that if there are “other guilty persons or helpers” in the Berlin attack, “we will bring them to justice.”

Merkel said she also spoke to the president of Tunisia and told him that Germany will greatly speed up its deportations of Tunisian nationals “who have no right of abode in Germany.”

Investigators meanwhile are working to determine how Amri became radicalized and his travels since Monday’s attack, police said.

Amri passed through France before arriving by train at Milan’s central railway station at around 1 a.m. Friday morning, a Milan police spokesman said.

German investigators are working with Italian authorities to reconstruct Amri’s route from Berlin to Milan. They are also trying to determine whether he had had help from a network of supporters in planning the attack in Germany and fleeing to Italy,

Amri had become the center of a Europe-wide manhunt following Monday’s deadly attack on the Christmas market at Breitscheidplatz, a public square in the heart of Germany’s capital.

Officials identified Amri as the likely assailant in the attack, citing evidence discovered at the crime scene.

“We can tell you today that there are additional clues that this suspect is, with very high likelihood, the perpetrator,” German Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters at a press conference Thursday. “Fingerprints in the cab of the truck have been found, and there are also other clues that suggest that [he is the perpetrator].”

Amri’s fingerprints were found on the steering wheel, on the driver’s side door and elsewhere in the cab of the tractor-trailer that was used to plow into the crowded Christmas market on Monday, according to Frauke Koehler, a spokeswoman for the German federal prosecutor’s office.

The truck’s driver was found dead with gunshot wounds in the back of the Polish-owned tractor-trailer used in the attack. No gun was recovered from the scene, suggesting that the weapon may still be with the attacker. The truck was stolen in Poland from a building site, according to Berlin police.

Berlin police said the deceased truck driver was a Polish citizen and was not controlling the vehicle when it drove into the market. The man is being counted among the 12 fatalities in the attack.

According to a wanted notice issued by German authorities earlier this week, Amri went by six different aliases and was considered “violent and armed.” Officials had offered a reward of up to 100,000 euros ($105,000) for information leading to his arrest.

ISIS claimed responsibility for Monday’s assault, calling Amri “a soldier of the Islamic State,” in a statement released by the terrorist group.

Ralf Jaeger, the interior minister of the German state of North Rhine–Westphalia, told reporters on Wednesday that Amri had known ties to the local radical Islamic scene and he had been deemed a threat by several security agencies.

Amri served a four-year prison term in Italy for arson on its Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, the closest European Union destination for migrants and refugees embarking from North Africa. He lived in the town of Kleve in North Rhine–Westphalia before moving to Berlin, Germany’s capital, in February. His asylum application was rejected in July of this year, but he was not deported to Tunisia because authorities couldn’t verify his identity without the proper paperwork, according to Jaeger.

A national security source told ABC News that Amri was known to U.S. intelligence agencies prior to the Berlin attack.

Tunisian authorities told ABC News on Thursday that they had interviewed Amri’s father.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Powered by WPeMatico