Anis Amri: Small-time crim­i­nal turned killer

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -


Anis Amri, the Tu­nisian sus­pect in the Ber­lin truck at­tack who was shot dead in Mi­lan yesterday, fol­lowed the well-trod­den path of petty crim­i­nal turned ji­hadist killer. Se­cu­rity sources believe the re­jected asy­lum seeker was rad­i­cal­ized dur­ing a four-year stint in an Ital­ian prison be­fore he mur­dered 12 peo­ple in Mon­day’s at­tack on a Christ­mas mar­ket in the Ger­man cap­i­tal.

Amri, who turned 24 years old while on the run Thurs­day, was hailed as a “sol­dier of the Is­lamic State” by the IS-linked Amaq news agency af­ter the bloody as­sault. When he pulled his gun on the Ital­ian po­lice early Fri­day be­fore they shot him dead, Amri re­port­edly yelled “Al­lahu Ak­bar” (God is great­est).

In a grow­ing se­cu­rity scan­dal in Ger­many, Amri had long been watched as a po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous ji­hadist but man­aged to avoid both ar­rest and de­por­ta­tion.

Rad­i­cal­ized in jail

Amri’s jour­ney be­gan in Oues­la­tia, a poor desert town in cen­tral Tu­nisia. The youngest of nine si­b­lings, he was known to po­lice as a ju­ve­nile delin­quent who drank and took drugs. He was 18 when the Tu­nisian rev­o­lu­tion erupted in early 2011 and over­threw long-time dic­ta­tor Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

Amri took ad­van­tage of the tur­moil to flee the coun­try, es­cap­ing a four-year jail term handed down in ab­sen­tia for rob­bery and bur­glary. He also “left to get away from mis­ery”, his brother Ab­delka­der told AFP this week.

“He had no fu­ture in Tu­nisia and wanted at all costs to im­prove the fam­ily’s fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion. We live be­low the poverty line, like most fam­i­lies in Oues­la­tia.” Like thou­sands of other mi­grants, Amri made the dan­ger­ous Mediter­ranean cross­ing and landed in March on the small Ital­ian is­land of Lampe­dusa, where he lied about his age and was taken as an un­ac­com­pa­nied mi­nor to Si­cily.

Soon af­ter, Amri was ar­rested on ar­son charges for burn­ing a school build­ing which had been con­verted into a refugee shel­ter. He was sen­tenced to four years in prison.

Not a model pris­oner, he re­ceived no early re­lease. It was be­hind bars that he was rad­i­calised as an Is­lamic ex­trem­ist, a clas­sic phe­nom­e­non in Europe, lo­cal media re­ported. Upon his re­lease, Italy or­dered him to leave the coun­try, while Tu­nisia re­fused to take him back.

Small-time drug dealer

In July 2015 he headed to Ger­many, as tens of thou­sands of Mid­dle East­ern and African mi­grants flocked to Europe’s big­gest econ­omy. His brother said Amri “worked as an agri­cul­tural labourer and things like that”.

“He’d con­tact us on Face­book, say­ing he wanted to come back to Tu­nisia but that he had to earn some money to buy his own car and start his own busi­ness.” Ger­man se­cu­rity agen­cies say he quickly min­gled in rad­i­cal Is­lamist cir­cles but evaded au­thor­i­ties by chang­ing lo­ca­tion fre­quently and us­ing up to six dif­fer­ent iden­ti­ties.

Amri re­peat­edly con­tacted Is­lamist “hate preach­ers” in­clud­ing the Iraqi Ah­mad Ab­du­laziz Ab­dul­lah A. alias Abu Walaa, who has since been ar­rested ac­cused of seek­ing to re­cruit fight­ers for IS.

News weekly Der Spiegel re­ported that in wire­taps, Amri could be heard of­fer­ing to carry out a sui­cide op­er­a­tion, but that his words were too vague for an ar­rest war­rant. — AFP

MI­LAN: Peo­ple gather near the site where sus­pected Ber­lin truck at­tacker Anis Amri was killed in Mi­lan yesterday. — AFP

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