The man behind the biggest act of Islamist terrorism in Germany could have been arrested by the authorities weeks before he committed the atrocity last December. What’s more, Berlin officials may have covered up their mistake.
On December 19 Anis Amri, a 24-year old Tunisian asylum seeker, stole a truck, killed its driver and drove the vehicle into a Berlin Christmas market, murdering 11 people and injuring 50. The attacker escaped but was killed a few days later in Milan by Italian police.
One month earlier, in November, Berlin police officials wrote up a report detailing their suspicions that Amri was involved in drug dealing. They could have arrested Amri at the time but didn’t, according to Andreas Geisel, part of the Berlin regional government, who revealed the details at a press conference Wednesday evening.
It appears that after the attack, Berlin police officials altered the document, which contained evidence of Amri’s alleged drug dealing. The police in question are now being investigated for obstructing justice and falsifying documents, according to Mr. Geisel, whose responsibilities include internal affairs, including police and the civil service in Berlin.
The authorities have filed criminal charges and taken disciplinary measures against the police employees involved, though Mr. Geisel did not provide further details.
State authorities had already criticized Berlin’s handling of the case. Amri has been placed under surveillance in Germany in 2016 as a suspected terrorist, nonetheless he lived freely in Germany for more than a year without residence papers and had a record of petty crime. He spent nearly four years in an Italian jail for theft and arson before coming to Germany in July 2015.