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.

Russian ambassador shot

The Russian ambassador to Turkey has been shot at a photographic exhibition in Ankara, reportedly by Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş, 22, a special forces Ankara police officer, who was heard to shout “Don’t forget about Aleppo, don’t forget about Syria!”

The exhibition was called exhibition called “Russia as seen by Turks”.


The assassin was shot by other officers.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova:

“Terrorism will not pass! We will fight it resolutely. Memory of this outstanding Russian diplomat, a man who did so much to counter terrorism in his diplomatic line of work, Andrei Gennadyevich Karlov, will remain in our hearts forever.”

This won’t help tensions in the Middle East, with both Turkey and Russia heavily involved in the Syrian war.

In November last year Turkey shot down a Russian war plane on the Syrian border.

So far at least negotiations about the future of Syria involving Russia, Iran and Turkey are reported to be still going ahead in Moscow on Tuesday (it’s still Monday in Europe).

It reminds me a bit of the shooting of Archduke Franz Ferdinand  in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914. This contributed to the onset of World War 1.


Politics and blogging not so bad here

I sometimes despair at the quality, behaviour and ethics of our politicioans and of our wider political discourse. Things could and shoulds be better.

If you listen to some of the more extreme political views, from the right at Whale Oil and Kiwiblog, and from the left at The Standard and The Daily Blog, you might think New Zealand is teetering on the edge of self destruction.

But we live in one of the best parts of the world in the best of times for civilisation. What’s happened in the recent and more distant past should be a constant reminder to how to us about how much things have improved for Western civilisation at least.

And what’s happening right now in Syria and Iraq, in northern Kenya and in the Ukraine should make us very thankful about our quality of life in general in New Zealand.

Two pieces of recent news brought this to mind.

American blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh

A prominent Bangladeshi-American blogger known for speaking out against religious extremism was hacked to death as he walked through Bangladesh’s capital with his wife, police said Friday.

The attack Thursday night on Avijit Roy, a Bangladesh-born US citizen, occurred on a crowded sidewalk as he and his wife, Rafida Ahmed, were returning from a book fair at Dhaka University. Ahmed, who is also a blogger, was seriously injured.

Roy was a prominent voice against religious intolerance, and his family and friends say he had been threatened for his writings.

Similar attacks in the past in Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority nation of 160 million people, have been blamed on Islamic extremists.

Blogging in New Zealand may seem knarly at times but it’s limited to online abuse by a relatively small and harmless number of numpties who flail in futility.

Nemtsov murder: Russian society polarised as theories abound

Russia woke up in shock on Saturday. The press, the social media, the politicians – all describe the killing of Boris Nemtsov, one of the leaders of the country’s opposition, as something that was – until Friday night – completely unthinkable.

He was gunned down a stone’s throw away from the Kremlin, in an area which is always tightly policed, and where security cameras are everywhere you look. He was, it appears, tracked for hours as he travelled around central Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called the killing a “provocation” and ordered Russian police chiefs to personally oversee the investigation.

And they were quick to come up with suitable theories.

The head of the Russian Investigative Committee, Vladimir Markin, said that he believes the murder could have been “a provocation aimed at destabilising the country”.

The assassination of Mr Nemtsov is already polarising society. Opposition supporters blame the Kremlin. And pro-Kremlin experts and pro-government media are, mostly, in agreement with President Putin.

That should put grizzling here into perspective.

They’re all pretty ho hum in comparison.

We should be thankful for how benign politics is in New Zealand. Sure there’s room for improvement and we should keep pushing for that but bloggers can safely tell our politicians whatever we like without fearing for our safety.

Being stalked and persistently and pointlessly pissed on by One Anonymous Bloke is very lame in comparison.