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Amri search delayed hours

September 16, 2017

Berlin police allegedly wasted three hours after December's truck attack before initiating a city-wide search for suspects. Terrorist Anis Amri had ample time to flee, says an inquiry report cited by German media.

Breitscheidplatz after the terror attack
Image: Getty Images/S. Loos

The internal report cited by Berlin's Morgenpost newspaper, public RBB broadcaster and the magazine Focus depicted chaotic police handling of the situation as Anis Amri fled Berlin unhindered towards Italy via other European countries.

Only three hours later did Berlin's own state protection agency initiate a city-wide search for potential suspects or "Gefährder" (endangerers in German).

It took another two hours before nationwide police checks were launched, according to the 120-page internal police inquiry report cited by the outlets.

Amri, who was shot dead in Milan by Italian police four days later, had driven a hijacked truck into Christmas market booths at central Berlin's Breitscheid square, killing 12 people and injuring more than 60 other persons.

Anis Amri
This search photo for Amri was issued by Berlin police on December 21Image: picture alliance /Bundeskriminalamt

Berlin's police command delays are attributed in the report to unclear flows of information to a local commander, the erroneous detention of a Pakistani, and a police wrangle over who should formally initiate the search.

Also based in Berlin is a Joint Counterterrorism Center (GTAZ) that is supposed to coordinate work between Germany's 16 states, including the city-state of Berlin, and federal police and intelligence authorities.

'Unsparing analysis'

"For the local commander a singular coordination of the [police] operation was not perceptible,” according to a quote published by Focus.

Not all commanding officers knew about a contingency plan drafted in case of terror attacks, it added.

Martin Pallgen, spokesman for the Berlin's city-state administration, on Friday vowed an "unsparing analysis" of failings in police work-flows. 

Departures demanded

Berlin opposition liberal Free Democrat Marcel Luthe on Saturday demanded personnel consequences for the apparent debacle.

"The months-long secretiveness over these findings make the retention of Berlin top police command untenable,” Luthe told Radio Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB). Luthe is a member of Berlin's interior affairs committee.

Berlin's city-state administration comprises a coalition led by center-left Social Democrat Mayor Michael Müller together with Greens and Left party members.

Canan Baqram of the Greens and Hakan Tas of the Left party demanded comprehensive clarification of the alleged failings.

Early this year, special investigator Bruno Jost uncovered evidence that files held on Amri by Berlin's Criminal Police Office (LKA) had been manipulated, apparently to disguise police failure to arrest Armi earlier for drugs dealing.

Memorial being built

This coming Christmas, a memorial is to be unveiled on Breitscheid square in the form of a golden rupture or tear to recall the victims.

Their names and countries of origin are to be engraved on the steps of the adjacent Kaiser-Wilhelm memorial church, a remnant of World War Two.

Mayor Müller: Everything under control

ipj/rg (dpa, epd, AFP)