Anis Amri

Anis Amri was a Tunisian domestic terrorist who drove a truck through a Christmas market in Berlin in December 2016, killing 12 people and wounding dozens more.“Again in the Case of the Berlin Attacker,” TIME, December 23, 2016, http://time.com/4617605/germany-police-failure-anis-amri-milan/. ISIS subsequently claimed responsibility for the attack. A video released by the ISIS-affiliated Amaq news agency showed Amri pledging allegiance to the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, vowing “we will slaughter” the “crusaders who are shelling the Muslims every day.”“Anis Amri: Three arrested including suspect’s nephew,” CNN, December 24, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/24/europe/anis-amri-berlin-attack-milan.

On December 19, 2016, shortly after 8 p.m., Amri rammed a hijacked truck through the Christmas market in Breitscheidplatz, a public square in Berlin, Germany, before fleeing the scene. Exactly 24 hours later, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.“Berlin attack: timeline,” Euronews, 12/21/2016, http://www.euronews.com/2016/12/21/berlin-attack-timeline. On December 21, German police issued a warrant for Amri’s arrest with a reward of 100,000 euros for information leading to his capture. On the same day, Amri obtained a free cell phone SIM card from a company that was handing them out at a shopping mall in Nijmegen, Netherlands, close to the German-Dutch border.“Anis Amri, Suspect in the Berlin Truck Attack: What We Know,” New York Times, December 22, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/22/world/europe/anis-amri-suspect-in-the-berlin-truck-attack-what-is-known.html?_r=0. On December 22, the German federal prosecutor’s office announced that Amri’s identification card and fingerprints were found in the truck used in the attack. On December 23, at around 1 a.m. local time, Amri arrived by train at Sesto San Giovanni, a commune of Milan, Italy, where he was shot and killed in a gunfight after an Italian police officer asked him to show identification papers.“Anis Amri, Suspect in the Berlin Truck Attack: What We Know,” New York Times, December 22, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/22/world/europe/anis-amri-suspect-in-the-berlin-truck-attack-what-is-known.html?_r=0.

Amri was born in 1992 in Tataouine, central Tunisia.“Berlin truck attack: Tunisian perpetrator Anis Amri,” BBC News, December 23, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-38396987. At age 14, Amri dropped out of high school and earned a reputation for drinking and partying, according to his mother.“Anis Amri: Three arrested including suspect’s nephew,” CNN, December 24, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/24/europe/anis-amri-berlin-attack-milan. In March 2011, Amri and three friends left Tunisia for the small Italian resort island of Lampedusa, south of the larger island of Sicily.“Anis Amri, Suspected Berlin Attacker, Had a History of Criminal Activity, Extremism,” Wall Street Journal, December 23, 2016, https://www.wsj.com/articles/anis-amri-berlin-suspect-slipped-through-many-nets-1482444423. Upon leaving, Amri promised his family that he would earn money and send it home.Anis Amri: from young drifter to Europe’s most wanted man,” Guardian (London), December 23, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/23/anis-amri-from-young-drifter-to-europes-most-wanted-man. Soon after leaving Tunisia, he was convicted in absentia by a Tunisian court for stealing a car, and sentenced to five years in prison. Amri then reached Sicily from Lampedusa and pretended to be an underage refugee, having deliberately thrown away his personal documents.Anis Amri: from young drifter to Europe’s most wanted man,” Guardian (London), December 23, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/23/anis-amri-from-young-drifter-to-europes-most-wanted-man. While briefly at school in Catania, Sicily, Amri became known to police for petty theft.

While in Sicily, Amri was rejected for an Italian residency permit. In protest, he set fire to his house.Anis Amri: from young drifter to Europe’s most wanted man,” Guardian (London), December 23, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/23/anis-amri-from-young-drifter-to-europes-most-wanted-man. An Italian court sentenced him to four years in prison for causing a fire, damaging property, and making threats. According to Italian prison records, Amri spent three and a half years in six different prisons across Sicily and received 12 warnings for violent and threatening behavior against both prison guards and detainees.“Anis Amri, Suspected Berlin Attacker, Had a History of Criminal Activity, Extremism,” Wall Street Journal, December 23, 2016, https://www.wsj.com/articles/anis-amri-berlin-suspect-slipped-through-many-nets-1482444423;
“Anis Amri: from young drifter to Europe’s most wanted man,” Guardian (London), December 23, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/23/anis-amri-from-young-drifter-to-europes-most-wanted-man.

In May 2015, Italian authorities released Amri and tried to deport him to Tunisia. However, Tunisian authorities could not verify his nationality and he was instead released and asked to leave the country. Amri did not return to Tunisia.“Anis Amri, Suspected Berlin Attacker, Had a History of Criminal Activity, Extremism,” Wall Street Journal, December 23, 2016, https://www.wsj.com/articles/anis-amri-berlin-suspect-slipped-through-many-nets-1482444423. Instead, he traveled to Switzerland and then, in July 2015, to Germany, where he applied for asylum claiming to be an Egyptian fleeing political persecution.Anis Amri: from young drifter to Europe’s most wanted man,” Guardian (London), December 23, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/23/anis-amri-from-young-drifter-to-europes-most-wanted-man. His application was rejected because he could not prove that he was Egyptian but again he could not be deported because he had no valid personal documentation.“Anis Amri: from young drifter to Europe’s most wanted man,” Guardian (London), December 23, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/23/anis-amri-from-young-drifter-to-europes-most-wanted-man. Despite his lack of identification, Amri illegally used 14 different identities to claim welfare checks during his time in Germany, according to the head of criminal police in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.“Berlin truck attack: Tunisian perpetrator Anis Amri,” BBC News, December 23, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-38516691;
Anis Amri: from young drifter to Europe’s most wanted man,” Guardian (London), December 23, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/23/anis-amri-from-young-drifter-to-europes-most-wanted-man.

While in Germany, Amri downloaded radical Islamic extremist content online. Amri also contacted Abu Walaa, a radical Salafist preacher and Iraqi ISIS supporter known colloquially as the “preacher without a face,” who was arrested in November 2016. Amri was also in contact with “Hasan C,” a known Turkish Islamic fundamentalist, and “Boban S,” a hate preacher from Dortmund, both of whom were known to radicalize young Muslims.“Anis Amri, Suspected Berlin Attacker, Had a History of Criminal Activity, Extremism,” Wall Street Journal, December 23, 2016, https://www.wsj.com/articles/anis-amri-berlin-suspect-slipped-through-many-nets-1482444423. An investigation into Abu Walaa revealed that members of the Abu Walaa network discussed driving a truck full of gasoline with a bomb into a crowd.“Anis Amri: Three arrested including suspect’s nephew,” CNN, December 24, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/24/europe/anis-amri-berlin-attack-milan.

In March 2016, authorities in Berlin opened a file on Amri following indications from federal German intelligence agencies that he was a likely threat to public safety. Undercover surveillance and electronic monitoring convinced authorities that he was dealing drugs and researching bomb-making techniques online.Anis Amri: from young drifter to Europe’s most wanted man,” Guardian (London), December 23, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/23/anis-amri-from-young-drifter-to-europes-most-wanted-man. According to phone records of Salafist preachers being monitored by German authorities, Amri is also believed to have offered himself as a suicide bomber, but the message was so heavily encrypted that police were unable to use it as evidence to issue an arrest warrant.Anis Amri: from young drifter to Europe’s most wanted man,” Guardian (London), December 23, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/23/anis-amri-from-young-drifter-to-europes-most-wanted-man. Despite seven separate investigations, German authorities could not agree on whether Amri was likely to commit a terrorist attack and in September 2016. Investigations after the attack revealed that Amri had used Telegram, an encrypted messaging application, employing code words to describe his plans to carry out an attack.“German police predicted Berlin attack nine months prior,” December 26, 2016,, http://www.dw.com/en/german-police-predicted-berlin-terror-attack-nine-months-prior/a-38123750.

According to an April 2019 report in Der Spiegel, investigations in Germany, France, and Belgium revealed that Amri was part of a European-wide network of ISIS supporters. The network maintained close relationships with the perpetrators of the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. The report also details that Amri plotted with other jihadists to carry out terrorist attacks, and communicated with four ISIS fighters in Libya prior to the Christmas market attack in Berlin.“Anis Amri war offenbar Teil eines europaweiten Terror-Netzwerks,” Märkische Allgemeine, April 19, 2019, http://www.maz-online.de/Nachrichten/Politik/Weihnachtsmarkt-Attentaeter-Anis-Amri-war-offenbar-Teil-eines-europaweit-agierenden-Terror-Netzwerks.

 
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