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Düsseldorf probes Amri case

March 13, 2017

A German inquiry into how Berlin truck assailant Anis Amri eluded checks heard testimony Monday from top migration and police experts. The probe in Düsseldorf's assembly comes two months before a state election.

Fahndungsfotos des gesuchten Tunesiers Anis Amri
Image: picture alliance/dpa/A. Dedert

The inquiry committee sought by opposition parties in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) state on Monday began questioning former federal migration agency head Frank-Jürgen Weise as well as federal BKA police chief Holger Münch.

Amri, a rejected Tunisian asylum-seeker, killed Christmas market-goers with a hijacked truck in central Berlin in December before being shot dead during a Europe-wide manhunt by Italian police in Milan.

He had left Tunisia in 2011, spent four years in Italy, and arrived in 2015 in Germany, where prosecutors in three regional states pursued the drug-dealer-turned-Islamist for diverse crimes.

NRW's interior minister Ralf Jäger of the Social Democrats (SPD), who govern regionally with the Greens, has already denied mistakes, saying prior to the Berlin attack authorities had worked up to the "boundaries of legality" to restrain Amri.

Deutschland Neun Tote und viele Verletzte auf Berliner Weihnachtsmarkt
Amri drove a truck into Breitscheidplatz Christmas marketImage: Google Earth

Massive data exchange problems

Weise, who formerly headed the Nuremburg-based federal BAMF agency for migration and refugees, recounted to the committee data exchange problems between authorities.

Entries on Amri did not show up initially in the continent's Eurodac database, although it should have contained fingerprints from his prior prosecutions in Italy up until 2015. 

Not until February 16 last year was BAMF notified by NRW's police investigations bureau, Weise said.

On February 26, 2016, it became known that Amri had used eight identifies. That led on May 30, 2016, to his asylum application being rejected on the grounds of giving false information.

Münch, who heads the Wiesbaden-based BKA federal police investigations agency, was due to give testimony later Monday.

Since Amri's attack, which in a video he attributed to the Islamic State (IS) militia, German authorities have been under pressure to explain how they failed to stop a man they had already identified as "Gefährder" (in German) or endangerer.

Sitzung des NRW-Landtags Hannelore Kraft und Ralf Jäger
NRW's premier Kraft and interior minister JägerImage: picture-alliance/dpa/F. Gambarini

Until last September, he had been under counter-terrorism surveillance. Although initially registered in NRW, he spent time in Berlin, and had up to 14 aliases.

North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state with 18 million residents, elects its next assembly on May 14. SPD premier Hannelore Kraft's main challengers are the regional arm of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats.

ipj/rt (dpa, AFP)