The Tunisian government late on Wednesday rebuked claims it mishandled the deportation the Berlin market attacker, Anis Amri, claiming Germany had initially provided the wrong identity when requesting his deportation.
"Unfortunately, we were first given the wrong name, which is why we declined the deportation," Tunisian minister Mehdi Ben Gharbia told German public broadcaster ZDF. "Once we received the correct name, we verified it as quickly as possible and sanctioned his return."
Amri ploughed a truck into a crowded Berlin Christmas market on December 19, killing 12 and injuring around 50 people.
It was revealed soon after the attack that the 24-year-old Tunisian was no longer supposed to be in Germany after his asylum request had been rejected in June. However, German immigration authorities had failed to deport him after Tunisia failed to issue a replacement passport that would have allowed him to return. At the time, Tunisian authorities reportedly maintained that Amri was not a Tunisian national.
According to a report presented to the state of North-Rhine Westphalia's (NRW) parliamentary interior committee, Amri was known to police under 14 different aliases, which would explain why German authorities would have sent the wrong name in the deportation request.
Tunisia did later accept Amri's deportation. His documents, however, arrived in Germany two days after he committed the Berlin attack as authorities across Europe launced a cross-border manhunt.
Amri was killed on December 23, in a shoot-out with Italian police outside a train station in Milan.
Ignored the warning
Federal and state officials in NRW have been scrutinized over their handling of Amri during the time he lived in Germany.
German authorities had been monitoring him for over a year before the Berlin attack and, according to the Criminal Police Office, knew he was "receptive to radical ideas and suggestions."
German security forces also reportedly discussed Amri's case on a number of occasions, each time ruling that he was unlikely to pose an acute threat.
The German government this month launched plans to toughen up security by expanding federal powers and increase state surveillance capabilities. Justice Minister Maas said following the attack that there was "no legal basis to issue a warrant" for Amri's arrest, adding that "we're going to create one now."
dm/rt (dpa, ZDF)