Germany hunts Tu­nisian sus­pect af­ter IS claims truck at­tack

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BER­LIN: Ger­man po­lice launched a man­hunt yes­ter­day for a Tu­nisian sus­pected of driv­ing the truck that ploughed through a Ber­lin Christ­mas market in a deadly as­sault claimed by the Is­lamic State ji­hadist group.

Me­dia re­ports said asy­lum of­fice pa­pers be­lieved to be­long to the man were found in the cab of the 40-tonne lorry used in the at­tack that killed 12 peo­ple. The man is in his early 20s, known by three dif­fer­ent names, and was born in the south­ern city of Tataouine, the re­ports said. He ap­plied for asy­lum in Germany in April and re­ceived a tem­po­rary res­i­dence per­mit, ac­cord­ing to the daily Sued­deutsche Zeitung.

A pre­vi­ous sus­pect-a 23-year-old Pak­istani asy­lum seeker-was re­leased late Tues­day for lack of ev­i­dence, prompt­ing fears of a killer on the loose and fur­ther rat­tling nerves in a shocked coun­try.

Twelve peo­ple were killed when the Pol­ish-reg­is­tered ar­tic­u­lated truck, laden with steel beams, slammed into the crowded hol­i­day market late Mon­day, smash­ing wooden stalls and crush­ing vic­tims. The scenes re­vived night­mar­ish mem­o­ries of the July 14 truck as­sault in the French Riviera city of Nice, where 86 peo­ple were killed by a Tu­nisian Is­lamist. Twenty-four peo­ple re­mained in hos­pi­tal, 14 of whom were se­ri­ously in­jured, In­te­rior Min­is­ter Thomas de Maiziere said. De Maiziere said sev­eral lines of in­quiry were be­ing pur­sued, but “we should let the se­cu­rity ser­vices do their job”. “No one will rest un­til the per­pe­tra­tor or per­pe­tra­tors have been caught,” he told ARD pub­lic tele­vi­sion.

The IS-linked Amaq news agency said “a sol­dier of the Is­lamic State” car­ried out the Ber­lin car­nage “in re­sponse to ap­peals to tar­get cit­i­zens of coali­tion coun­tries”. There was no ev­i­dence to back the claim, nor was the per­pe­tra­tor iden­ti­fied. Germany is part of a US-led coali­tion fight­ing IS in Iraq and Syria. Tu­nisia is one of the big­gest sup­pli­ers of ji­hadist fight­ers, with some 5,500 of its na­tion­als be­lieved to be in­volved in com­bat in Syria, Iraq and Libya. The at­tack comes at a del­i­cate time for Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel who is run­ning for a fourth term in 2017 but has faced strong crit­i­cism over her de­ci­sion last year to open the coun­try’s bor­ders to refugees.

‘New sus­pect very soon’

In a blow to in­ves­ti­ga­tors, fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors an­nounced Tues­day they had to re­lease the only sus­pect in cus­tody af­ter find­ing no foren­sic ev­i­dence to link him to Germany’s dead­li­est at­tack in re­cent years. The Pak­istani man was de­tained late Mon­day af­ter he was re­port­edly seen jump­ing out of the truck and flee­ing the scene. But of­fi­cials had ex­pressed grow­ing doubts over whether they had the right sus­pect, and he de­nied the charges un­der re­peated ques­tion­ing.

Fol­low­ing the sus­pect’s re­lease, Ber­lin’s po­lice chief Klaus Kandt told ARD tele­vi­sion “one or more” per­pe­tra­tors were be­lieved to be on the run and pos­si­bly armed. Po­lice said they were chas­ing up more than 500 tips from the pub­lic and ex­am­in­ing DNA traces found in the cab of the truck.

“I am fairly con­fi­dent that we will have a new sus­pect to­mor­row or very soon,” the head of the BDK po­lice union, An­dre Schulz, told pub­lic broad­caster ZDF late Tues­day. Po­lice were re­port­edly fo­cus­ing their search for the Tu­nisian sus­pect in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

BER­LIN: Ital­ian For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter An­gelino Al­fano (R) and Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter Frank-Wal­ter Stein­meier speak to jour­nal­ists near the Kaiser-Wil­helm-Gedaecht­niskirche (Kaiser Wil­helm Memo­rial Church), close to the site where a truck crashed into a Christ­mas market two days be­fore.

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