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Suspect In Berlin Christmas Market Attack Fatally Shot By Italian Police

Dec 23, 2016
Originally published on December 23, 2016 4:38 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The man suspected of the terrorist attack on a Christmas market in Berlin is now dead. He had fled to Italy. In Milan, police shot and killed him. Now German leaders are pledging to increase security. And across Europe, authorities are trying to learn more about Anis Amri, a Tunisian and ex-convict that Germany had intended to deport. Joanna Kakissis begins our coverage with this report from Berlin.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Like many young North African men, Anis Amri arrived in Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Italy five years ago. After serving four years in prison and then being expelled, he slipped into Germany and made an unsuccessful attempt for asylum. By then, it was clear he had already become radicalized.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANIS AMRI: (Speaking Arabic).

KAKISSIS: In an undated video circulated on social media today, Amri pledges allegiance to the so-called Islamic State and calls on its supporters to slaughter those he calls crusader pigs in Europe. Amri is suspected of hijacking a tractor-trailer driven by a Polish man and ramming it into a popular Christmas market in Berlin. Twelve people died, and at least 45 were injured. He fled the scene, slipped into France and ended up near a train station in the Italian city of Milan.

Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti said police there stopped a suspicious man during a routine ID check. The man then shot at police, injuring one officer. They shot back, killing him.

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MARCO MINNITI: (Through interpreter) After all the appropriate checks were carried out, the person who was shot was identified without a shadow of a doubt as Anis Amri, the suspect in the Berlin terrorist attacks.

KAKISSIS: Berlin resident Benedict Wintgens says he's relieved that Amri is dead.

BENEDICT WINTGENS: This one terrorist can't do any harm anymore. But it's always some kind of risk that there might be another terrorist attack in Europe and Germany as well.

KAKISSIS: In an address to the nation, Chancellor Angela Merkel said security officials were working round the clock to find any accomplices Amri might have had.

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ANGELA MERKEL: (Through interpreter) Islamic terrorism and its actions challenge us again and again and always in new ways. Because of this, we've had to change our security policies again and again.

KAKISSIS: Germany could not deport Amri because he did not have a passport. Merkel says she wants to make it easier to deport criminal migrants and those rejected for asylum. Speaking on Skype, security analyst Hazim Fouad says crackdowns on militants and criminals can only go so far in a democracy.

HAZIM FOUAD: It will never be possible to completely monitor all known extremists in Germany. Especially lone-wolf attacks by persons previously unknown to the authorities can hardly be prevented.

KAKISSIS: But one success today - police arrested two brothers from Kosovo who are suspected of planning to bomb a shopping mall in the German city of Oberhausen. Joanna Kakissis, NPR News, Berlin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.