sexta-feira, 23 de dezembro de 2016

Berlin attacker manhunt ends in shootout but questions remain / Merkel to review security after Berlin attack

Berlin attacker manhunt ends in shootout but questions remain
Authorities face questions after Anis Amri manages to travel over 1,000 miles around Europe in spite of arrest warrant

Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Rome, Philip Oltermann and Jad Salfiti in Berlin, and Angelique Chrisafis in Paris
Friday 23 December 2016 19.02 GMT

The hunt for Europe’s most wanted man ended in a gun battle outside a Milan train station in the early hours of Friday but left authorities facing tough questions about how an armed suspected terrorist had been able to travel hundreds of miles on public transport before being caught.

Italy’s interior minister, Marco Minniti, said on Friday that the man shot in Milan was “without a shadow of a doubt” Anis Amri, who is suspected of carrying out Monday’s terrorist attack on a Berlin Christmas market. Fingerprints of the shot man matched those secured from within the cabin of the truck used to carry out the attack, German authorities confirmed.

Amri was stopped by two police officers in a routine check in the Sesto San Giovanni neighbourhood on the outskirts of the city and was asked for his documents, Minniti said. Amri initially told the officers he did not have documents and that he was from Calabria. When pressed further, Amri slipped his hand into his bag and retrieved a .22-calibre gun, shooting 36-year-old officer Christian Movio in the shoulder.

A second officer, 29-year-old Luca Scatà, returned fire, shooting Amri in the chest. The Tunisian 24-year-old reportedly died of his wounds about 10 minutes later, in spite of attempts at resuscitation.

Movio remains in hospital with a wound to his shoulder that is not life-threatening. Minniti said he told the wounded officer “Italians will be able to have a happier holiday. All of Italy should be proud of him … It’s not simple to guarantee an adequate level of security faced with the threat of terrorism, but we are putting everything into it.”

Angela Merkel, who was alerted to the news of Amri’s death by the Italian prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, on Friday morning, thanked the Italian officers and said she had asked for an investigation into “each and every aspect of the case of Mr Amri”. Wherever there was a need for a political or legislative change, it would be done speedily, the German chancellor said.

The fact that a man whose terrorist leanings were known to German spy agencies had dropped off their radar before the attack and managed to evade police while travelling at least 1,000 miles around the continent in spite of a European arrest warrant raised difficult questions for security agencies and politicians across Europe.

Paris-based web portal Monde Afrique on Friday claimed the Moroccan intelligence agency had twice alerted German authorities to Amri’s “fervent” support for Islamic State and his contact with two of their representatives in advance of Monday’s attack, once on 19 September and again on 11 October.

A video posted on Friday by Isis’s Amaq news agency, in which Amri pledged his allegiance to Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and called for Isis supporters to take revenge against “crusaders” bombing Muslims, appeared to be shot with a mobile phone on the Kieler bridge in Berlin’s Moabit district, just over a mile from the German chancellery.

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The bridge is also located only a short distance from the ThyssenKrupp warehouse near where Polish truck driver Łukasz Urban on Monday parked the articulated lorry that was used to plough into the Breitscheidplatz Christmas market later that evening.

“It simply cannot be the case that someone like Amri was able to move around Germany freely even though he was suspected of planning a terrorist attack,” said Michael Ortmann, a terrorist expert for broadcaster RTL.

“Our intelligence agencies have fallen asleep at the wheel,” Ortmann told the Guardian, pointing to the fact that Germany had experienced a lack of terrorist activity for many decades since the decline of the Red Army Faction, also known as the Baader-Meinhof gang. Spy agencies were often understaffed and technologically behind the times, he said, making it difficult for regional police to share data.

How Amri managed to travel from Berlin in the north of the continent to Milan in the south remains unclear. German and Italian media reported that a French rail ticket was found in Amri’s backpack, suggesting that he had boarded a train in the city of Chambéry in the northern French Alps, near both the Swiss and Italian borders. From Chambéry, Amri appeared to have travelled by train for two and a half hours to the northern Italian city of Turin, before taking another train to Milan.

French media on Friday offered a different theory, reporting that Amri had travelled from Lyon to Chambéry by train, then a direct high-speed TGV to Milan.

Travelling directly from Germany to France by train, Amri would have run a considerable risk of detection. After last year’s thwarted train attack in which a 27-year-old Moroccan jihadi opened fire on a Thalys train from Amsterdam to Paris, security on certain French and international train services has been stepped up, with passengers having to go through metal-detection scanners on some platforms. But not all train services or stations scan passengers before boarding.

According to Tagesspiegel newspaper, Berlin police had calculated that their suspect would have been unable to travel far beyond the German capital’s borders, citing eyewitness reports according to which Amri had sustained visible facial injuries during Monday’s attack.

However, several companies run coach services from the centre of Berlin to the French Alps. FlixBus, for example, runs a coach service that departs at 11.45pm on Monday from Berlin’s central station and arrives in Annecy, near Chambéry, at 8.10pm the following day.

Though passengers are required to carry a valid passport to board such coaches, their ID documents are checked only by the driver, who is not usually qualified to verify their authenticity. FlixBus declined to comment on whether Amri could have travelled on board one of its buses, referring the Guardian to the criminal investigator.

By the time Amri arrived in Milan, he reportedly had only a couple of hundred euros left in his wallet, which has led Italian investigators to presume he had been hoping to hide nearby. Italy was familiar territory to Amri, and that may explain why he headed back to the country following Monday’s attack. He is believed to have arrived in Italy as one of tens of thousands of Tunisians who entered the country after the Arab spring protests in 2011.

Merkel said she had spoken to the Tunisian president and that progress had been made in the process of sending back Tunisian refugees who had no right to stay in Germany. “We can be relieved that one acute threat has come to an end, but the threat that comes from terrorism – that is a general threat – continues,” she said.

Merkel to review security after Berlin attack
We will press ahead with examining whether certain state measures need to be changed,” the German chancellor said.

By JANOSCH DELCKER 12/23/16, 5:32 PM CET Updated 12/23/16, 7:43 PM CET

BERLIN — Just hours after Anis Amri, the suspect in the Christmas market attack in Berlin, was killed in a shootout with authorities in Milan, Chancellor Angela Merkel faced up to German security agencies’ failure to prevent the massacre.

“We will press ahead with examining whether certain state measures need to be changed,” Merkel said in a press conference on Friday. “The Amri case raises lots of questions. Not only questions about the deed but also about the time leading up to it ever since he arrived in Germany.”

Amri, a Tunisian, arrived in Germany in July 2015 and was denied asylum a year later but wasn’t deported, despite having spent four years in an Italian prison, raising questions about the efficiency and lack of coordination between Germany’s many security agencies.

German security services have identified as many as 550 people as willing and able to commit terrorist attacks, so-called Gefährder, which roughly translates as “individuals likely to endanger public safety.”

That number is 110 higher than last year, but whether that’s because more people are being radicalized, or authorities are getting better at finding them, is unclear.

After finding Amri’s identification card inside the truck used in the attack, authorities “quickly determined that he is an Islamist Gefährder,” Holger Münch, chief of the Federal Criminal Office (BKA), told journalists.

Around half of the so-called Gefährder are not currently in Germany, and roughly 80 are behind bars, leaving almost 200 at large in the country, the Interior Ministry confirmed to POLITICO.

A spokesperson for the ministry confirmed the numbers but said it could not provide further details about whether authorities are monitoring the suspects. “‘At large’ is your choice of words,” he said.

The fact that Amri was killed by authorities “unfortunately doesn’t change the terrorist threat in Germany,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said on Friday. “It remains high.”

When it comes to monitoring suspects, authorities are partly hamstrung by stringent privacy laws as well as the logistical challenge of observing hundreds of people around the clock in disparate locations.

Furthermore, many of the Gefährder known to authorities may never have committed a crime. Instead, authorities have been alerted to them because of suspicious behavior, such as expressing extremists views in internet forums, or having traveled to destinations in Syria or Iraq or elsewhere.

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Given the privacy laws, German law enforcement can only put people under surveillance for a limited amount of time before they have to go back to court to get approval again for the surveillance.

In the case of Amri, authorities observed him for months, according to Berlin’s state prosecutor. However, this surveillance was terminated in September, after previous observations had not yielded enough evidence to continue it, according to media reports.

But the logistical constraints are also an issue.

Sebastian Fiedler, the deputy chief of Germany’s Criminal Police Union (BDK), told the news website that in order to observe one person around the clock, roughly 40 police officials are necessary, making it “virtually impossible” to observe all Gefährder in the country with the available resources.

“In the state of North Rhine-Westphalia alone, we are talking about around 200 people,” Fiedler said. To observe them around the clock, “we would need about 8,000 police officers, which is more than a third of all officers in the state.”

Nevertheless, as more and more apparent flaws in monitoring the suspected perpetrator of Monday’s attack are emerging, Merkel and de Maizière appear willing to reassess security regulations.

On Friday, a spokesperson for the German justice ministry confirmed that they were drafting a regulation for electronic ankle bracelets for suspects who have previously been convicted.

“In these times of great challenges we will do everything possible for our state to be a strong state,” Merkel said.

At the same time, she stressed that any toughening up of security measures would not happen at the expense of democratic values and civil liberties.

“Our democracy, our state is based on the rule of law,” she said. “Our values and our humanity are the alternatives to the hateful world of terrorism, and they will be stronger than terrorism.”


Janosch Delcker  

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