German officials say the Berlin market attacker used 14 different identities and had been detained by authorities prior to the deadly incident on fraud charges. On December 16, 2016, Anis Amri from Tunisia hijacked a truck, driving it into a crowd shopping at a Christmas market in the German capital, in a terror attack that left 12 people dead.
The 24-year old was later killed on December 23 in an exchange of gun fire with Italian police near Milan. German investigators said Amri had come under police scrutiny before the assault not only as a potentially violent extremist, but also a fraud who had received benefits simultaneously under different identities.
The head of North Rhine-Westphalia state’s criminal police, Dieter Schuermann, told regional lawmakers on Thursday that prior to the Berlin carnage, police had been highly suspicious of Amri, but lacked sufficient evidence about his terror attack plans to jail him. He said police had “exhausted all legal powers to the limit to ward off potential dangers.” Schuermann said Amri had used at least 14 different aliases under different nationalities, claiming at times to be Egyptian or Lebanese.
Amri, who came to Germany in mid-2015, had been a known offender with criminal record on guns and drugs. He had fled his native country in North Africa to escape imprisonment there. Meanwhile, newly released surveillance footage shows Amri arriving at Belgium’s Brussels North train station the day after the Berlin attack, wearing a thick jacket and a scarf covering part of his face in order not to be identified.
He disembarked from a train out of Amsterdam, the Netherlands’ capital, later in the evening. The attacker then moved on to France and Italy before being shot near Milan after an altercation broke out when police officers asked for his identification papers. The Takfiri Daesh militant organization claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the assailant was a follower of the terrorist group. Police are investigating to see if Amri had any accomplice(s) in the attack. A relative of Amri, along with two other men, have been arrested in connection with the massacre.