The Tunisian suspect who quickly became Europe's most wanted alleged criminal for his involvement in Monday's lorry jihadist attack against a Christmas market in Berlin, was killed Friday in a shootout with the police in Milan, the Italian interior minister has confirmed.
“The man killed was without a shadow of doubt Anis Amri,” said Marco Minniti, the interior minister. It was also reported that when he pulled his gun on the Italian police Amri yelled Allahu Akbar (God is greatest).
Police officer Cristian Movio, aged 36, was also wounded during the gunfight. He is recovering at a hospital and his condition has been reported as non-life-threatening. Rookie Luca Scatà, 29 years old and on the job for just nine months, was the one to shoot and killed the suspected terrorist.
Paolo Gentiloni, Italy’s prime minister, said he alerted German chancellor Angela Merkel to the news of Amri’s death early on Friday morning.“Our attention is high, threats should not be underestimated, but what happened last night, I think, allows all of our fellow citizens to know that the state is present, and Italy is present,” Gentiloni said.
Merkel thanked Italy for the killing of Anis Amri, the German DPA newsagency reported.
Security sources believe the rejected asylum seeker was radicalised during a four-year stint in an Italian prison before he murdered 12 people in Monday's attack on a Christmas market in the German capital.
Amri was hailed as a soldier of the Islamic State by the terrorist organization.
In a growing security scandal in Germany, Amri had long been watched as a potentially dangerous jihadist but managed to avoid both arrest and deportation.
Amri's journey began in Oueslatia, a poor desert town in central Tunisia. The youngest of nine siblings, he was known to police as a juvenile delinquent who drank and took drugs.
He was 18 when the Tunisian revolution erupted in early 2011 and overthrew long-time dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Amri took advantage of the turmoil to flee the country, escaping a four-year jail term handed down in absentia for robbery and burglary.
Like thousands of other migrants, Amri made the dangerous Mediterranean crossing and landed in March on the small Italian island of Lampedusa, where he lied about his age and was taken as an unaccompanied minor to Sicily.
Soon after, Amri was arrested on arson charges for burning a school building which had been converted into a refugee shelter. He was sentenced to four years in prison. It was behind bars that he was radicalised as an Islamic extremist, a classic phenomenon in Europe, local media reported. Upon his release, Italy ordered him to leave the country, while Tunisia refused to take him back.
In July 2015 he headed to Germany, as tens of thousands of Middle Eastern and African migrants flocked to Europe's biggest economy.
German security agencies say he quickly mingled in radical Islamist circles but evaded authorities by changing location frequently and using up to six different identities. Amri repeatedly contacted Islamist hate preachers including the Iraqi Ahmad Abdulaziz Abdullah A. alias Abu Walaa, who has since been arrested accused of seeking to recruit fighters for IS.
News weekly Der Spiegel reported that in wiretaps, Amri could be heard offering to carry out a suicide operation, but that his words were too vague for an arrest warrant. Counter-terror agencies were surveilling Amri and suspected he was preparing a serious act of violence against the state, said Ralf Jaeger, interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia state. Berlin prosecutors, who were in charge of the case, said Amri had been suspected of planning a burglary meant to raise cash to buy automatic weapons, possibly to carry out an attack.
Surveillance had then however shown that Amri was working as a small-time drug dealer in Berlin and once had a bar fight with another dealer. The surveillance ceased in September.
Germany had meanwhile rejected his asylum request in June but was unable to deport him as Amri claimed to have no travel documents. His deportation then got caught up in red tape with Tunisia, which long denied he was a citizen. The documents only arrived on Wednesday, two days after the Berlin attack, said Jaeger. Amri's asylum-office papers for a stay of deportation were found in the cab of the 40-tonne lorry that cut a swathe of death and destruction through the festive crowd.