Berlin market attack suspect killed in shootout in Milan: Italian minister Marco Minniti

The Tunisian man suspected of carrying out the deadly Berlin truck attack at the Christmas market was shot dead by police in Milan on Friday, Italy's interior minister Marco Minniti said.

The minister told a press conference in Rome that Anis Amri had been fatally shot after firing at two police officers who had stopped his car for a routine identity check around 3:00 am (0200 GMT).

Identity checks had established "without a shadow of doubt" that the dead man was Amri, the minister said.

He said that Amri had coolly pulled the weapon from a backpack and began shooting. One of the officers was hit in the shoulder during the exchanges, the minister said. The officer was in hospital, awaiting surgery but not in any danger.

Italy had Amri's fingerprints on file as a result of him having been in prison in Sicily between 2011 and 2015.

Thought to be around 24, he had been on the run since escaping after Monday's attack which left 12 people dead.

 Berlin market attack suspect killed in shootout in Milan: Italian minister Marco Minniti

A picture provided by Najoua Amri on Thursday shows the fugitive Tunisian suspected in Berlin's deadly Christmas market attack, Anis Amri. AP

He had arrived in Italy from his native Tunisia during the Arab Spring in 2011.

Shortly after his arrival he was sentenced to a prison term for starting a fire in a refugee centre.

He was released in 2015 and made his way to Germany.

Media reports in Italy say he was on anti-terrorism police's radar as a potential Islamist radical during his time in prison but was not considered a high-priority subject for monitoring.

'Systemic failure'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday she was "proud of how calmly most people reacted" to the country's deadliest attack in years.

But her assuring message failed to dampen criticism of what many politicians and newspapers slammed as glaring security failures leading up to Monday's attack.

Berlin public broadcaster RBB reported that police filmed Amri heading into a Berlin mosque on Tuesday — after the attack — at a time when the investigation was still focussed on a Pakistani suspect who was later released.

Officials earlier revealed that Amri was a rejected asylum seeker with a history of crime, had spent years in an Italian jail and had long been known to German counter-terrorism agencies.

News weekly Der Spiegel reported that in wiretaps, Amri could be heard offering to carry out a suicide operation, but that his words were too vague for an arrest warrant.

Amri had been monitored since March, suspected of planning break-ins to raise cash for automatic weapons to carry out an attack — but the surveillance was stopped in September because Amri was mostly active as a small-time drug dealer.

Conservative lawmaker Stephan Mayer, a critic of Merkel's liberal stance on refugees, said the case "held up a magnifying glass" to the failings of her migration policy that brought almost 900,000 asylum seekers to Europe's top economy last year.

"It's clear that a lot went wrong... it was a systemic failure," said Peter Neumann, professor of security studies at King's College London.

Neumann argued that German security services lacked the manpower to maintain around-the-clock surveillance of the 550 known radical Islamists in Germany.

"Germany's anti-terrorism structure is failing to match the scale of the problem," he told news channel NTV. "Once the dust settles, it will be important to have a fundamental rethink."

Firefighters look at a toppled Christmas tree after a truck ran into a crowded Christmas market and killed several people in Berlin, Germany, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016.AP

Firefighters look at a toppled Christmas tree after a truck ran into a crowded Christmas market and killed several people in Berlin, Germany, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016.AP

'In the crosshairs'

While the security debate rages, and is set to intensify in the election year 2017, many Germans were looking ahead to Christmas Eve on Saturday, the country's most important festival.

On Thursday, Berliners flocked to the reopened Breitscheid square Christmas market that was targeted in Monday's carnage.

The government has appealed for people to carry on as normal and not to give in to fear.

Organisers dimmed festive lights and turned down the Christmas jingles as a mark of respect for those killed.

Victims were also honoured with candles, flowers, letters of condolence and signs reading "Love Not Hate".

Among the dead were six Germans, 60-year-old Israeli Dalia Elyakim, and a young Italian woman called Fabrizia Di Lorenzo. Forty-eight others were injured.

On Friday, a memorial concert was planned at the iconic Brandenburg gate under the theme of "Together Berlin".

Germany had until now been spared the jihadist carnage that has struck neighbouring France and Belgium.

But it has suffered a spate of smaller attacks, including two in July that left 20 people injured, both committed by asylum seekers and claimed by the Islamic State group.

Merkel said Germany had "known for a long time that we are in the crosshairs of Islamic terrorism. And yet, when it happens... it is a totally different situation."

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Updated Date: Dec 23, 2016 17:01:06 IST