In­ves­ti­ga­tors track foot­steps of sus­pect in Ber­lin mas­sacre

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Colleen Barry

mi­lan» In­ves­ti­ga­tors on Satur­day worked to de­ter­mine if the Ber­lin Christ­mas mar­ket at­tacker got any lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port to cross at least two Euro­pean bor­ders and evade cap­ture for days be­fore be­ing killed in a po­lice shootout 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 in a rou­tine po­lice stop out­side a de­serted train sta­tion.

The Is­lamic State ter­ror­ist group has claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the Ber­lin at­tack, but so far, lit­tle is known about any sup­port net­work back­ing up 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 an­titer­ror­ism 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.

The min­istry said the nephew told them he was in con­tact with Amri via Tele­gram’s en­crypted com­mu­ni­ca­tions to avoid de­tec­tion. He said Amri had re­cruited him to ji­had and asked him to pledge al­le­giance to IS, which he did 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 a pos­si­ble ex­trem­ist there, 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 early Fri­day 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.

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 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 needed to de­port him was de­layed for months.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors are look­ing into why Amri re­turned to Italy this week as he sought to elude po­lice and whether he had any ji­hadi con­tacts in the coun­try.

Au­thor­i­ties were also in­ves­ti­gat­ing the ap­par­ent co­in­ci­dence that the truck from a Pol­ish ship­ping com­pany used in the Ber­lin at­tack had been loaded with ma­chin­ery in the neigh­bor­ing Mi­lan sub­urb of Cinisello Bal­samo three days be­fore the at­tack.

Mi­lan Po­lice Chief An­to­nio de Iesu ac­knowl­edged the con­nec­tion was “sug­ges­tive.”

But he told re­porters there was no ev­i­dence yet of a link, em­pha­siz­ing that the Pol­ish truck driver who was the ter­ror­ist’s first vic­tim had spo­ken to his wife by phone from Ber­lin hours be­fore the at­tack and did not ap­pear to be un­der duress.

On Satur­day, Italy wel­comed home one of the 12 vic­tims, 31year-old Fabrizia Di Lorenzo. She had been work­ing in Ber­lin and was out shop­ping for Christ­mas presents to bring to rel­a­tives in cen­tral Italy when the truck ca­reened into the mar­ket.

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