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Berlin truck attack suspect shot dead by police in Italy

MILAN, Italy--Italian police shot dead the man believed responsible for this week's Berlin Christmas market truck attack, killing him after he pulled a gun on them during a routine check in the early hours of Friday, Dec. 23.

Italian Police officers work next to the body of Anis Amri, the suspect in the Berlin Christmas market truck attack, in a suburb of the northern Italian city of Milan, Italy, Dec. 23, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer
Italian Police officers work next to the body of Anis Amri, the suspect in the Berlin Christmas market truck attack, in a suburb of the northern Italian city of Milan, Italy, Dec. 23, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer

MILAN, Italy-Italian police shot dead the man believed responsible for this week's Berlin Christmas market truck attack, killing him after he pulled a gun on them during a routine check in the early hours of Friday, Dec. 23.

The suspect, 24-year-old Tunisian Anis Amri, travelled to Italy from Germany via France, taking advantage of Europe's open-border Schengen pact to cross the continent undetected.

As anger grew over the fact that Amri had escaped expulsion twice in 18 months thanks to bureaucratic loopholes, eurosceptic parties called for the reintroduction of border controls, while Germany said deportations had to be made easier.

Amri is suspected of ploughing a truck through a festive Berlin market on Monday, killing 12 people. In a video released on Friday after his death, he is seen pledging his allegiance to militant group Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

"I call on my Muslim brothers everywhere... Those in Europe, kill the crusader pigs, each person to their own ability," he says in the video posted on Islamic State's Amaq news agency.

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Amri had arrived in Milan's main railway station from France at 1 a.m. local time and then travelled to the working class suburb of Sesto San Giovanni, where two young policemen approached him because he looked suspicious idling on a street.

Milan police chief Antonio De Iesu told a news conference his men had no idea that they might be dealing with Amri.

"They had no perception that it could be him, otherwise they would have been much more cautious," De Iesu said. "We had no intelligence that he could be in Milan."

He failed to produce any identification so the police requested he empty his pockets and his small backpack. He pulled a loaded gun from his bag and shot at one of the men, lightly wounding him in the shoulder.

Amri then hid behind a nearby car but the other police officer managed to shoot him once or twice, killing him on the spot, De Iesu said. Amri was identified by his fingerprints.

De Iesu said that besides the gun, the suspect had been carrying a small pocket knife. He also had a few hundred euros on him but no cell phone and very few other belongings.

Amri once spent four years in jail in Italy and police were trying to work out if he knew someone in Sesto, which is home to a sizeable Muslim community. "He could have carried out other attacks. He was a loose cannon," De Iesu said.

Islamic State had previously claimed responsibility for the Berlin killings and on Friday it acknowledged the death of the man it referred to as "the executor of the Berlin attacks."

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Leading eurosceptics were quick to blame the Schengen open borders pact for allowing the suspect to travel so easily.

"This escapade in at least two or three countries is symptomatic of the total security catastrophe that is the Schengen agreement," said Marine Le Pen, who leads France's far-right National Front party and is running for president.

Beppe Grillo, the founder of the 5-Star Movement, Italy's main opposition party, said Schengen was allowing militants to cross Europe with impunity and had to be re-thought. He also said all illegal migrants had to be expelled from the country.

Related Topics: MILAN
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