What was Ber­lin at­tack sus­pect do­ing in Mi­lan?

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

No­body comes to Sesto San Gio­vanni by chance, say the res­i­dents of this dreary work­ing-class Mi­lan sub­urb where po­lice caught up with Ber­lin mar­ket at­tack sus­pect Anis Amri. So why, Italy won­ders, did Europe’s most wanted man end up here? Amri, a 24-year-old Tu­nisian, was shot dead by po­lice on Fri­day dur­ing a rou­tine check at the lo­cal train sta­tion, af­ter open­ing fire first.

Sesto San Gio­vanni, with its 80,000 in­hab­i­tants, is where Amri caught the of­fi­cers’ at­ten­tion in the small hours. It’s a hub for trans­port, the last stop on a metro line, and has a busy bus ter­mi­nal where buses leave for Spain, Morocco, Al­ba­nia and south­ern Italy. Many for­eign­ers come through here, and po­lice con­trols are par­tic­u­larly thor­ough.

“I get checked by po­lice ev­ery day get­ting off the bus,” said Aziz, a young Moroc­can worker. “At night this place is de­serted, which would ex­plain why some­body alone here would be im­me­di­ately spot­ted by a po­lice pa­trol,” he told AFP. Ac­cord­ing to Ital­ian daily La Stampa, po­lice be­lieve that Amri ar­rived in Italy by train from Cham­bery, south­east­ern France.

They think he stopped for three hours in Turin, where po­lice are now check­ing video sur­veil­lance footage for clues as to any con­tact with ac­com­plices. But none of the images they have seen so far show him us­ing a phone, and ac­cord­ing to Mi­lan po­lice chief An­to­nio De Iesu, he did not have one with him when he was shot dead.

‘Italy’s Stal­in­grad’

He then trav­elled to Mi­lan, where he ar­rived at 1 am Fri­day, be­fore go­ing on to Sesto San Gio­vanni. Was he hop­ing to hook up with mem­bers of a net­work? Was he look­ing for new ID to get him out of Europe? Or was he plan­ning some kind of re­venge against Italy, where he spent four years in prison for torch­ing a school in 2011?

Po­lice are short on an­swers. But they do point out, ac­cord­ing to Ital­ian me­dia, that Sesto San Gio­vanni, once known as “Italy’s Stal­in­grad” be­cause of the pow­er­ful lo­cal Com­mu­nist party, has be­come a mul­ti­cul­tural town with a large Mus­lim com­mu­nity. Po­lice chief De Iesu told jour­nal­ists that Amri had “no links with the Sesto mosque”, but some lo­cals won­der if he had con­tacts nearby. “Some peo­ple are wor­ried,” said Tom­maso Trivolo, who lives in a high-rise build­ing op­po­site the train sta­tion from where he saw the am­bu­lances ar­riv­ing with scream­ing sirens just af­ter the shoot­ing. Italy does its bit in­ves­ti­gat­ing jihadist sympathizer net­works, but only a few dozen Ital­ians have ac­tu­ally gone off to join Is­lamic State fighters in Iraq or Syria. And de­spite the oc­ca­sional threat­en­ing mil­i­tant video, Italy has never been the tar­get of any jihadist at­tack.

‘They got lucky’

Still, many Ital­ians are star­tled that the man tracked by the com­bined power of the con­ti­nent’s po­lice forces could slip into their coun­try un­no­ticed. “He could have com­mit­ted more at­tacks,” ac­knowl­edged De Iesu, call­ing Amri “a very dan­ger­ous fugitive”. Pop­ulists have seized the op­por­tu­nity to fur­ther their agenda, in­clud­ing Beppo Grillo, head of the Five Star Move­ment.

“Italy is be­com­ing a cross­roads for ter­ror­ists. We can’t de­tect or iden­tify them, and thanks to Schen­gen they can cross bor­ders with­out trou­ble,” he said on his blog, re­fer­ring to the EU’s pass­port-free travel sys­tem. Many other Ital­ians de­clare them­selves to be fa­tal­is­tic, like Francesco Mi­cali, an­other res­i­dent of Sesto San Gio­vanni. “There could eas­ily be an at­tack in Italy, just like in France, Ger­many and Spain,” said. As for the two po­lice­man who stopped the sus­pect, who are be­ing cel­e­brated as he­roes in Italy: “They just got lucky,” said Mi­cali. — AFP

MI­LAN: The body of Anis Amri lies on the pave­ment on the out­skirts of Mi­lan af­ter a shootout with the Ital­ian Po­lice, early Fri­day. — AP

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