New failures uncovered in police investigation of Berlin truck attacker

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AFP/DPA/The Local - [email protected]
New failures uncovered in police investigation of Berlin truck attacker
The scene of the attack at Breitscheidplatz. Photo: DPA

Nearly one year after an Islamist terrorist attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, another failure during police investigations into the terrorist behind the attack has come to light.


Police failed to spot photos in which the terrorist Anis Amri posed with weapons during an evaluation of his mobile phone, Herbert Reul, interior minister in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), admitted on Monday. The weapons in question were reportedly a gas pistol and knives.
Amri hijacked a truck on December 19th last year, killed its Polish driver and ploughed the vehicle through the market, claiming 11 more lives and wounding dozens.

He was shot dead by Italian police while on the run in Milan, four days after the attack which was claimed by terror group Isis.

Amri's mobile phone was confiscated months before the attack and evaluated by the NRW's Criminal Police Office (LKA). More than 12,000 media files were stored on the phone, but due to a filter setting, photos with poor quality were not seen during the evaluation, including seven pictures showing Amri holding weapons.
"There was a mistake here that shouldn't have happened," said Reul. He could not say whether this would have led to a different assessment of Amri.
The photos wouldn't have been enough for an arrest warrant, Reul said. But the data would have been available to the LKA in NRW, as well as the Berlin LKA and the Federal Criminal Police Office. Reul said that he did not know what the other police forces had done with the photos.
A whole series of failures have been so far been discovered in police investigations into Amri before his deadly attack at Breitscheidplatz Christmas market. Amri was a Tunisian national who Germany had been trying to deport for months before the attack.
In a recent report, a special investigator in Berlin found numerous failures on the part of the authorities and criticised poor cooperation between police forces throughout Germany.
Breitscheidplatz market opens for 2017
The Christmas market at the Memorial Church opened on Monday under strong security precautions.

On Monday, visitors to the festive outdoor space saw new additions to the traditional bright lights, stollen cake and mulled wine: concrete barriers hidden behind Christmas trees and a heightened police presence.

"We are happy that the market is starting up again," said Martin Gelmer, the pastor for the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which overlooks Breitscheidplatz.

"But at the same time we know what happened here: that people died here and that other people must now live with serious injuries," he told AFP, shortly after leading a service for the vendors.

Organiser AG City, which has also deployed teams of private security guards in orange vests, expects up to one million visitors by the time the market winds down on January 7th.

It will close on the attack anniversary, when a memorial in the form of a gold-coloured crack in the ground with the names of the victims will be inaugurated.

Last year's horror weighed heavily on many present.

"You think about it... I don't feel so at ease," said Christa Okunick, 67, visiting from the western city of Dortmund.

Last year, she came to the Christmas market a week before the attack, an experience she couldn't put out of her mind on this visit.

"It is an unsafe place, and you can't protect it at all... I'm indeed a bit scared."

Others such as Noreen Moore, 73, visiting from the US state of Colorado, were unfazed.

"It's part of the German custom," she said, describing how she came to Berlin for the Christmas markets and hoped to visit as many as she could on her trip.

She felt "very comfortable" walking around, she said.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere urged Germans not to be afraid to enjoy their time-honoured holiday markets, which attract 85 million visitors yearly across the country.

People should be "mindful but not fearful", he told Bild. "Christmas markets are part of our life and culture."

The threat of another attack remains unchanged at a high level in Germany and Europe, said an interior ministry spokesman on Monday.



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