Berlin politician calls for upgrading security in aftermath of Christmas market attack | News | DW | 05.03.2017
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Berlin politician calls for upgrading security in aftermath of Christmas market attack

Changes proposed by a Berlin politician include new criteria on who poses a security threat. Before the attacks in Paris, Brussels and Berlin, those with petty criminal records weren't considered a security risk.

The state of Berlin's interior minister has called for increased security measures in the wake of a deadly terror attack in the capital last December.

In an interview with the "Berliner Morgenpost," Andreas Geisel said the state's lawmakers had already decided to buy 12,000 new pistols and bulletproof vests for the Berlin police force, as well as creating new criteria for assessing Islamist threats.

His comments come nearly three months after Anis Amri drove a truck through a crowded Christmas market killing 12 people and injuring dozens more.

Geisel said the fire department and rescue squad units would be getting upgraded equipment. The upgrades were already in the planning stages before the Christmas market attack, but that the timeframe is now being advanced by five years or more.

"We have to move everything forward and start it in 2017," said Geisel.

On the night of the pre-Christmas attack in Berlin there were communication problems with the fire and rescue units. They arrived on the scene quickly, but due to communication problems dispatchers were unsure of their location.

He also lamented that family members of the victim's had received bills for the autopsies done on their relatives.

"This must not happen," Geisel said, adding that there would be talks with German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere to ensure better supervision.

In retrospect, Geisel said, the security authorities had enough information about Amri, but incorrectly evaluated that information by concluding that the Tunisian immigrant had drug abuse issues, yet failed to identify him as a Muslim extremist who posed a possible security threat. 

A terrorist profile

Police observed that the then 24-year-old North African consumed drugs for months and did not keep the Islamic fasting month Ramadan. For these reasons, the security authorities also considered the probability he would carry out an attack to be rather low.

"He did not correspond to the image of an Islamist convert," said Geisel, who entered office just weeks ahead of the Christmas market attack.

Geisel noted that the terrorists who struck Paris in November 2015 and Brussels in 2016 were, at the time, seen as petty criminals, not aspiring terrorists. Amri seemed to fit that same mold, but German officials failed to adapt their assessment after the earlier attacks.

Now, he said, security threat assessments need to be standardized nationwide.

Geisel also called for streamlining, standardizing and interconnecting the multiple computer systems used by various state and federal authorities.

"We currently have 19 different IT systems that have difficulty communicating with each other," he said.

Processing fingerprint data is arcane. He said fingerprints are sometimes burned onto a CD and sent by regular mail.

In addition to being the German capital, Berlin is also one of Germany's 16 states.

bik/sms (Berliner Morgenpost, dpa)

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