Finger­prints tie Tu­nisian to Ber­lin at­tack

Sus­pect had been on au­thor­i­ties’ radar

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD - BY GEIR MOULSON AND FRANK JOR­DANS

BER­LIN | Ger­man of­fi­cials pre­sented mount­ing ev­i­dence Thurs­day that Anis Amri was be­hind the wheel of a truck that smashed into a Christ­mas mar­ket in Ber­lin, killing 12, as au­thor­i­ties across Europe pressed ahead with their fever­ish man­hunt for the 24-year-old Tu­nisian, who has evaded cap­ture since the at­tack.

Po­lice raided prop­er­ties in Ber­lin and the west­ern state of North Rhine-West­phalia, where Mr. Amri is be­lieved to have spent time. They also swooped on a bus in the south­west­ern city of Heil­bronn af­ter re­ceiv­ing a tip that turned up noth­ing.

No ar­rests were made, said Frauke Koehler, a spokes­woman for fed­eral prose­cu­tors.

Even so, in­ves­ti­ga­tors were in­creas­ingly con­fi­dent that Mr. Amri car­ried out the ram­page af­ter find­ing his finger­prints in the cab of the truck that had been hi­jacked shortly be­fore Mon­day’s at­tack.

“We can tell you to­day that there are ad­di­tional in­di­ca­tions that this sus­pect is with high prob­a­bil­ity re­ally the per­pe­tra­tor,” In­te­rior Min­is­ter Thomas de Maiziere said af­ter vis­it­ing the Fed­eral Crim­i­nal Po­lice Of­fice along with Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel.

“Finger­prints were found in the cab, and there are other, ad­di­tional in­di­ca­tions that sug­gest this,” he told re­porters. “It is all the more im­por­tant that the search is suc­cess­ful as soon as pos­si­ble.”

Ger­man au­thor­i­ties have been on the de­fen­sive af­ter it emerged that Mr. Amri had been con­sid­ered a po­ten­tial threat for months, sub­jected to sur­veil­lance and put in pre-de­por­ta­tion de­ten­tion in Au­gust, only to be re­leased again due to pa­per­work prob­lems.

The fact that the at­tack is al­leged to have been car­ried out by a man who came to Ger­many seek­ing asy­lum last year also prompted fresh crit­i­cism of Ms. Merkel’s de­ci­sion to al­low hundreds of thou­sands of mi­grants into the coun­try with­out thor­ough se­cu­rity checks.

While po­lice have noted that most mi­grants are law-abid­ing, a num­ber of high-pro­file crimes, in­clud­ing the New Year’s Eve as­saults in Cologne and sev­eral vi­o­lent attacks over the sum­mer, have stoked anti-mi­grant feel­ing in Ger­many. Two attacks in July, along with the truck at­tack in Ber­lin, were claimed by the Is­lamic State.

“We have made great ef­forts in re­cent years to bet­ter pre­pare for ter­ror­ist threats,” Ms. Merkel told re­porters. “This makes me con­fi­dent that we will with­stand the test that we now face.”

While mem­bers of Ms. Merkel’s party have called for tighter asy­lum laws and a crack­down on po­ten­tial ex­trem­ists in the wake of the at­tack, the chan­cel­lor ap­pealed once more for calm.

“I want to say how very proud I’ve been in re­cent days that the great ma­jor­ity of peo­ple have re­acted soberly,” she said.

At the site of the blood­bath, Ber­lin­ers made a show of de­fi­ance. Ven­dors re­opened their stalls at the Christ­mas mar­ket next to the Kaiser Wil­helm Me­mo­rial Church even as po­lice placed con­crete blocks by the road­side to pro­vide ex­tra se­cu­rity.

In trib­ute to the vic­tims, or­ga­niz­ers de­cided to do with­out fes­tive mu­sic and bright lights. Ber­lin­ers and vis­i­tors placed can­dles and flow­ers at a makeshift shrine for the vic­tims.

Ber­lin’s state Health Min­istry raised the num­ber of in­jured in the at­tack to 56, say­ing some vic­tims went to hos­pi­tals on their own.

The agency said 12 peo­ple were be­ing treated for se­vere in­juries, with some still in crit­i­cal con­di­tion. An­other 14 peo­ple with less-se­ri­ous in­juries re­mained hos­pi­tal­ized and 30 oth­ers had been dis­charged.

Ger­man au­thor­i­ties have of­fered a re­ward of 100,000 eu­ros ($105,000) for in­for­ma­tion lead­ing to Mr. Amri’s ar­rest, but they warned he could be “vi­o­lent and armed.”

In Tu­nisia Mr. Amri’s broth­ers spoke to The As­so­ci­ated Press, urg­ing him to sur­ren­der to au­thor­i­ties. “Whether he did it or not, I ask him to re­port to the po­lice. We are suf­fer­ing be­cause of him,” said Ab­delka­der Amri.

An­other brother, Walid, said Mr. Amri may have been rad­i­cal­ized in prison in Italy, where he went af­ter leav­ing Tu­nisia in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring up­ris­ings.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ger­man of­fi­cials are tak­ing heat for not be­ing more aware of the man sus­pected of driv­ing a stolen truck into a Christ­mas mar­ket crowd in Ber­lin. Tu­nisian Anis Amri had been known to au­thor­i­ties for months.

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