Terrorist’s escape to Italy probed

December 25, 2016 GMT

MILAN — Investigators were working last night 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 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 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.

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. Amri 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 pretrial detention pending further investigation.

In Spain, police, on a tip from German authorities, were investigating whether Amri was in contact with a possible extremist there.

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.