Berlin attack suspect shot in Italy

Anis Amri, the suspect in the Berlin truck attack, has been shot dead by Italian police after travelling to Italy via France.

Reuters: Berlin truck attack suspect shot dead by police in Italy

Italian police shot dead the man believed responsible for this week’s Berlin Christmas market truck attack, killing him after he pulled a gun on them during a routine check in the early hours of Friday.

The suspect – 24-year-old Tunisian Anis Amri – traveled to Italy from Germany via France, taking advantage of Europe’s open-border Schengen pact to cross the continent undetected.

Open borders are great for tourists, but one can still be detected – in my only visit to France I walked across the border in Basel railway station, got on a French train, and soon after leaving the station I was asked for my passport by a posse of French security working their way through the train. I don’t know if this is normal or random.

As anger grew over the fact that Amri had escaped expulsion twice in 18 months thanks to bureaucratic loopholes, euroskeptic parties called for the reintroduction of border controls, while Germany said deportations had to be made easier.

From what I’ve seen it was a difficult ‘loophole’ to overcome as German authorities couldn’t prove Amri’s Tunisian citizenship so Tunisia wouldn’t have allowed him in. They can’t deport someone with nowhere for them to go.

“I call on my Muslim brothers everywhere… Those in Europe, kill the crusader pigs, each person to their own ability,” he says in the video posted on Islamic State’s Amaq news agency.

The video of Amri’s video is in the Reuters link. It sounds like recited boilerplate bull typical of Muslim extremists.

Amri had arrived in Milan’s main railway station from France at 1.00 a.m. (2000 EDT) and then traveled to the working class suburb of Sesto San Giovanni, where two young policemen approached him because he looked suspicious idling on a street.

Milan police chief Antonio De Iesu told a news conference his men had no idea that they might be dealing with Amri.

“They had no perception that it could be him, otherwise they would have been much more cautious,” De Iesu said. “We had no intelligence that he could be in Milan.”

So a lucky encounter for the Italian police…

He failed to produce any identification so the police requested he empty his pockets and his small backpack. He pulled a loaded gun from his bag and shot at one of the men, lightly wounding him in the shoulder.

Amri then hid behind a nearby car but the other police officer managed to shoot him once or twice, killing him on the spot, De Iesu said. Amri was identified by his fingerprints.

…and lucky for the world as it turns out.

Amri once spent four years in jail in Italy and police were trying to work out if he knew someone in Sesto, which is home to a sizeable Muslim community. “He could have carried out other attacks. He was a loose cannon,” De Iesu said.

So Amri was well known to Italian as well as German authorities.

A lot will be asked and said about why Amri still had the opportunity to carry out the truck attack in Berlin.

A problem for a number of European countries is the large number of illegal immigrants who have travelled across the Mediterranean, and that flood continues via boat.

It would be a huge job to identify and detain them all, let alone work out where they could be deported to, especially if they are suspected of having links extremist organisations.

Even if they can be sent back to their country of origin unless they are detained indefinitely there they can probably find another boat to take them back to Europe. And it’s a worsening problem.

Financial Times reports:

Nearly 15,000 people have made the dangerous crossing from north Africa to Italian shores in the first three months of 2016, which is a 43 per cent increase on the same period in 2015, and a 38 per cent increase on the same period in 2014.

The vast majority of migrants arriving in Italy recently are from sub-Saharan Africa — Nigerians, Gambians and Senegalese are the largest nationalities to arrive in Italy in 2016 — and are not automatically eligible for international protection. This means they cannot qualify for the EU’s relocation programme, which applies to Syrians and Eritreans fleeing war and persecution, redistributing them to other EU countries. Many are likely to have their initial asylum applications rejected and will be stuck in legal limbo in Italy for months, until a final ruling is made.

In the past, Italy could count on many undocumented migrants moving on to northern Europe, taking advantage of the EU’s passport-free travel zone. But since Austria has said it will step up checks along the Italian border and limit the number of refugees allowed to enter, migrants are more likely to remain boxed in south of the Alps. France, too, is expected to further intensify its own border controls, in response to terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris.

There will be pressure on Germany to try to clamp down on illegal immigrants entering there too.

But there is already a huge problem scattered across Europe. Random attacks as happened in Berlin will be very difficult to prevent. Public events like the Berlin markets and the Bastille Day celebrations in Nice must be able to continue.

Risks are still relatively tiny to members of the public, but small terrorist attacks are designed to inflict maximum fear – and maximum loathing. This is nothing new, but what is relatively new is how quickly and graphically news of attacks spreads around the world.

There are no easy solutions.

Western nations with colonist histories ending their meddling in the Middle East must be a serious consideration because it is one of the primary causes. And not supplying Middle Eastern countries with weapons and bombs would help a lot. But that gets complicated, with Russia being also heavily involved in the current destruction.

One thing that would reduce interference in the Middle East would be to substantially reduce demand for oil.

But the arms and oil industries have very strong lobbies in the US and in Europe. Power and greed perpetuate death and destruction, and the occasional terrorist attack is a price that will continue to be paid.