Berlin Attack

Closing in on Extremists

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Angela Merkel’s refugee policy is under fire again in the wake of news that a failed aslyum seeker managed to carry out a terrorism attack in Berlin before he could be deported.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Over the weekend, security forces in Tunisia arrested three men between the ages of 18 and 27 who had been in contact with Anis Amri.
    • Authorities claimed the group comprised a terror cell.
    • The Tunisian Interior Ministry said that one of the men was his nephew, who claimed Mr. Amri had sent him money to go and join him in Germany.
  • Audio

    Audio

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Police patrol among people at the re-opened Christmas market at Breitscheid square in Berlin. Source: Reuters

The Christmas market at Breitscheidplatz was buzzing during the holiday weekend. It had been five days since 12 people had died after a truck had crashed into the crowds drinking mulled wine in what was Germany’s most shocking terror attack in recent times, but Berliners were determined not to be scared away from their own city.

This attitude was praised by Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said she was proud of the way people had responded to the attack.

But questions remain about the attack that will remain pressing even after all the stalls selling gingerbread have packed up until next year.

The man suspected of driving the truck into the crowd, Anis Amri, is dead, after being shot by police just outside Milan in Italy.

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A video has emerged of Mr. Amri swearing allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Bagdadi, head of Islamic State. And it is clear authorities must look at why a rejected asylum seeker who was known to be a dangerous radical, with close ties to extremists, was left free to execute an attack.

Germany’s interior minister Thomas de Maizière denied that the authorities had failed at their job but confirmed to the tabloid Bild Am Sonntag newspaper that there would be a thorough review of the case.

Over the weekend, security forces in Tunisia arrested three men between the ages of 18 and 27 who had been in contact with Mr. Amri, and claimed the group comprised a terror cell. The Tunisian Interior Ministry said that one of the men was his nephew, who claimed Mr. Amri had sent him money to join him in Germany.

The revelations will increase pressure in Germany to tighten up laws to stop people like Mr. Amri slipping through the net again.

Polls show that Germans are demanding a tightening of security, something Ms. Merkel has promised will happen.

Mr. de Maizière and Justice Minister Heiko Maas are looking at ways to tighten up laws dealing with people who are known threats to security. National police list 550 people as potential terrorists. Some are abroad, in places like Syria, and some are in custody.

But Mr. de Maizière said around 200 of these potential terrorists, known here as “Gefährder,” are in Germany. Mr. Amri was one of them: he should have been deported but was released because he didn’t have a valid passport.

Mr. de Maizière said the law should be changed to facilitate closer tracking of potential suspects around the clock: something that has not been possible until now.

The center-right Christian Democrats also want to put in place faster deportations for those whose asylum claim is rejected, something that the Social Democrats have said they would support.

Both parties also support the idea of transit centers to hold migrants whose identities are unclear: people like Mr. Amri, who held multiple aliases and was known to authorities.

 

Jan Hildebrand is a leading Handelsblatt politics correspondent and is deputy managing editor of Handelsblatt’s Berlin office. To contact the author: hildebrand@handelsblatt.com

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