Of­fi­cials hunt sup­ply net­work of at­tacker

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

In­ves­ti­ga­tors yes­ter­day sought to hunt down where the Ber­lin Christ­mas mar­ket at­tacker got pos­si­ble lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port to cross at least two Euro­pean bor­ders and evade cap­ture for days be­fore be­ing killed in a po­lice shootout dur­ing a rou­tine stop in a Mi­lan sub­urb.

Tu­nisian fugitive Anis Amri’s fin­ger­prints and wal­let were found in a truck that plowed into a Christ­mas mar­ket in Ber­lin on Mon­day night, killing 12 peo­ple and in­jur­ing 56 oth­ers. De­spite an in­tense, Europe-wide man­hunt, Amri fled across Ger­many, into France and then into Italy, trav­el­ing at least part of the way by train, be­fore be­ing shot early Fri­day on foot out­side a de­serted train sta­tion.

The Is­lamic State group has claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the Ber­lin at­tack, but so far lit­tle is known about any pos­si­ble lo­gis­ti­cal net­work back­ing the 24-year-old fugitive. Ital­ian in­ves­ti­ga­tors were work­ing to see if the Tu­nisian had any con­nec­tions in the Mi­lan area. Italy was his port of en­try into Europe in 2011 and he spent more than three years in Ital­ian jails on

Si­cily. But an anti-ter­ror­ism of­fi­cial said there was no ev­i­dence that he had ever been in or around Mi­lan be­fore Fri­day’s shootout. In Tu­nisia, the In­te­rior Min­istry an­nounced the ar­rest Fri­day of Amri’s nephew and two oth­ers sus­pected of be­long­ing to the same ex­trem­ist net­work. The min­istry said in a state­ment that Amri, through an alias, had sent his 18-year-old nephew Fedi some money through the post of­fice to join him in Europe and join the Abou Walaa net­work. Amir claimed to be the net­work’s emir.

IS allegiance

It is un­clear whether those sus­pects were in any po­si­tion to help Amri flee Ber­lin. The min­istry said dur­ing ques­tion­ing, the nephew said he was in con­tact with Amri via Tele­gram’s en­crypted com­mu­ni­ca­tions to avoid de­tec­tion. He told po­lice that Amri had re­cruited him to ji­had and asked him to pledge allegiance to IS. The nephew recorded such a pledge and sent it to Amri via Tele­gram.

The Tu­nisian pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice or­dered all three held in pre-trial de­ten­tion pend­ing fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion. In Spain, po­lice were in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether Amri was in con­tact with an­other pos­si­ble ex­trem­ist in Spain, on a tip from Ger­man au­thor­i­ties. “We are study­ing all pos­si­ble con­nec­tions (be­tween Amri) and our coun­try, above all with one spe­cific per­son,” In­te­rior Min­is­ter Juan Ig­na­cio Zoido told Span­ish ra­dio.

Italy has found it­self at the cen­ter of the Ber­lin at­tack in­ves­ti­ga­tion af­ter the dra­matic shootout that ended the man­hunt. The de­serted train sta­tion and the late hour prompted Ital­ian of­fi­cers to check the North African man’s iden­tity, of­fi­cials said. In­stead of pulling out an iden­tity card, Amri pro­duced a loaded .22 cal­iber gun, shoot­ing a se­nior of­fi­cer in the shoul­der be­fore a rookie of­fi­cer killed him with a sin­gle shot to the chest.

Amri had ar­rived in the south­ern is­land of Lampe­dusa il­le­gally in 2011, claim­ing to be a mi­nor, and quickly landed in jail af­ter set­ting fire to a mi­grant cen­ter. Af­ter he was freed, ef­forts to de­port him failed for bu­reau­cratic rea­sons. He reached Ger­many, where au­thor­i­ties were con­cerned enough about him to put him un­der covert sur­veil­lance for six months ear­lier this year, end­ing the op­er­a­tion in Septem­ber. His re­quest for asylum was re­fused by Ger­many in the sum­mer, but the pa­per­work from Tu­nisia that was needed to de­port him was de­layed for months. Tu­nisian of­fi­cials say that’s be­cause Amri used at least six dif­fer­ent names and three dif­fer­ent na­tion­al­i­ties in trav­els around Europe, and they had to check each one. — AFP

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