ISIS can boast another successful terrorist attack against the “crusaders” in the heart of Europe.
Investigators on Saturday worked to determine if the Berlin Christmas market terrorist 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 on Monday night, killing 12 people including an Israeli woman, 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 (ISIS) terror 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.
A video has emerged of Amri pledging allegiance to ISIS, but does not say if the attack was coordinated with the terror group. ISIS’ Amaq news agency released the clip shortly after Amri was shot dead.
Speaking to the camera, Amri says the deaths of Muslims will be avenged, and calls on his “Muslim brothers” to kill the “crusaders” in Europe.
“Allah and prayer and peace be sent with the sword of mercy to the worlds. Prayer and peace be upon the faithful [ISIS’ “caliph”] Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi al-Husseini al-Hashimi al-Qurashi,” he declares.
“My message to crusaders bombing Muslims everyday… Their blood will not go in vain. We are a nation behind them and will take revenge for them. I call on my Muslim brothers everywhere… Those in Europe, kill the crusader pigs, each person to their own ability.”
Italian investigators were investigating whether Amri 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. But an anti-terrorism official said there was no evidence that he had ever been in or around Milan before Friday’s shootout.
In Tunisia, the Interior Ministry announced the arrest Friday of Amri’s nephew and two others suspected of belonging to the same Islamic terror 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 come to Europe and join the Abou Walaa network. Amir 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 ISIS, which he did and sent it to Amri via Telegram.
The Tunisian prosecutor’s office ordered all three held in pre-trial detention pending further investigation.
In Spain, police were investigating whether Amri was in contact with a possible terrorist there, on a tip from German authorities.
“We are studying all possible connections (between Amri) and our country, above all with one specific person,” Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido told Spanish radio.
Italy- The Focal point
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.
He reached Germany, where authorities were concerned enough to put him under covert surveillance for six months earlier this year, ending the operation in September. His request for asylum was refused by Germany in the summer, but the paperwork from Tunisia needed to deport him was delayed for months.
Investigators are looking into why Amri returned to Italy this week as he sought to elude police and whether he had any jihadi contacts in the country.
Authorities were also investigating the apparent coincidence that the truck from a Polish shipping company used in the Berlin attack had been loaded with machinery in the neighboring Milan suburb of Cinisello Balsamo three days before the attack.
Milan Police Chief Antonio de Iesu acknowledged the connection was “suggestive.”
But he told reporters there was no evidence yet of a link, emphasizing that the Polish truck driver who was the terrorist’s first victim had spoken to his wife by phone from Berlin hours before the attack and did not appear to be under duress.
On Saturday, a casket containing the body of 31-year-old Fabrizia Di Lorenzo arrived at Rome’s Ciampino airport, met by Italian President Sergio Mattarella. The victim’s parents and brother received hugs and condolences before the casket was placed in a vehicle for the ride home. She had been working in Berlin and was out shopping for Christmas presents to bring to relatives in central Italy when the truck careened into the market.
The husband of a Czech woman killed in the Berlin attack, meanwhile, said he was relieved that Amri no longer posed a threat to the people of Europe.
Petr Cizmar said he was not after revenge “but I needed to know that he was removed from our society one way or another and could not cause further harm.”
He spoke Saturday by phone from the family’s home in Braunschweig, 230 kilometers (143 miles) west of Berlin.
Cizmar says his 34-year-old wife Nada had a logistics job in Berlin since May and stayed there during the week. He says she went to the market to celebrate Christmas with her colleagues. The couple has a five-year-old son.
Dalia Elyakim, the Israeli woman killed in the attack, was laid to rest in Israel on Friday, while her husband, who was wounded in the attack, still remains hospitalized in Berlin.
By: AP and World Israel News Staff