Berlin attack suspect ‘spent four years in Italian jail’

The man wanted by German police in connection with Monday's Christmas market attack in Berlin reportedly spent four years in jail in Italy and was known to police for violence.

Berlin attack suspect 'spent four years in Italian jail'
Police stand guard at the scene of the attack. Photo: Clemens Bilan/AFP

The suspect, Anis Amri, lived in Italy after leaving Tunisia in 2011, a Tunisian security source told AFP on Wednesday. 

According to daily La Stampa, he arrived on Italy's shores by boat and told police in 2011 he was a minor, despite being 19 at the time. Italy's laws offer protection and benefits for unaccompanied migrant minors.

The Tunisian was assigned to a foster home and school in Catania, where he got in trouble for threatening and hurting other students, before eventually attempting to set fire to the school.

The arson attempt led to his arrest in October 2011. In prison he was treated as dangerous but showed no signs of radicalization, Italian media report.

An expulsion order issued after Amri had completed his sentence was blocked by red tape in Tunisia, which did not recognize him as a citizen, and Amri was able to travel to Germany. 

His ID was found in the truck which drove into a crowded market on Monday evening, killing 12 and injuring almost 50 more.

German prosecutors have now issued a Europe-wide wanted notice for the 24-year-old, offering a €100,000 reward for information leading to his arrest and warning he “could be violent and armed”.

As the manhunt intensified on Thursday morning, questions were raised about how the suspect had been able to avoid arrest and deportation despite being on the radar of several security agencies.

German authorities have come under fire after it emerged that Amri should have been deported from the country in June, and opposition parties linked the attack with Chancellor Angela Merkel's open doors refugee policy even before it was known who the suspect was.

If it is confirmed that Amri was connected to the attack, there is likely to be political backlash in Italy too, where record numbers of migrants have arrived by boat this year.

One Italian, a 31-year-old woman, is feared to have died in Monday's attack, while two others are reported injured, though one has already been released from hospital.

READ MORE: What we know about the Berlin attack suspect




Italian police seize €250 million and arrest 56 in latest mafia blitz

In its latest mafia sting, Italian police took down a large 'Ndrangheta ring in southern Calabria, placing 56 people under investigation including a regional councillor and a former head of the regional tourism board.

Italian police seize €250 million and arrest 56 in latest mafia blitz

The early-morning blitz by over 300 police focused on areas of Calabria – Italy’s poorest region – under the control of the Mancuso clan, a powerful branch of the infamous ‘Ndrangheta, many of whose top operatives are among hundreds of defendants in an ongoing ‘maxi-trial’.

Fifty-six people, many already in prison, were put under criminal investigation for a series of crimes including mafia-related conspiracy, extortion, kidnapping, bribery and possession of weapons, police and prosecutors said.

READ ALSO: ‘Ndrangheta: It’s time to bust some myths about the Calabrian mafia

Besides alleged mafia members, the operation also snared businessmen, a regional councillor released from prison days earlier, a former head of the regional tourism board and two civil servants, police said.

The incarcerated boss of the clan, Luigi Mancuso, also known as “The Supreme”, is the biggest mafioso in the massive mafia trial that started in January 2021.

Still, police said, his clan and affiliates, including the La Rosa and Accortini families, have continued to dominate illegal activities in the Vibo Valentia province, which is located right on the toe of Italy’s boot and is widely known as the ‘Coast of the Gods’ due to its stunning coastal views.

One mafia scheme involved the infiltration of a foreign tour operator in Pizzo Calabro, overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea.

No one talks

In Calabria, the extent of the ‘Ndrangheta’s reach in the local economy has made it near impossible to eradicate it.

By controlling the bulk of cocaine flowing into Europe, the ‘Ndrangheta has surpassed Sicily’s Cosa Nostra in power and wealth. It has extended far beyond its rural roots and now operates internationally, with illegal gains reinvested in the legitimate economy.

In the area around Vibo Valentia, extortion of local businesses and the fixing of public tenders is also common.

The allegations against those arrested Thursday include the transport and sale of stolen farm machinery to Malta and Romania, police said.

The sting carried out on Thursday extended to other parts of Calabria, Palermo in Sicily and as far as Rome and Milan, police said.

READ ALSO: Meet Nicola Gratteri, the prosecutor leading Italy’s battle against the mafia

In a press conference, anti-mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri, whose efforts to defeat the ‘Ndrangheta have forced him to live under police escort for over 30 years, called the group a “fierce mafia syndicate” controlling areas around the tourist resort of Tropea.

Francesco Messina, who leads Italy’s organised crime investigative unit (DAC), cited the economic power of the clan, which relies locally on “substantial” extortion activity.

The “total absence” of complaints to authorities was striking, Messina said, underscoring the ‘Ndrangheta’s power to intimidate.

By Alexandria Sage