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German authorities offer €100k reward to find chief suspect in Berlin attack

Police have warned that 24-year-old Tunisian Anis Amri could be “violent and armed”.

Updated 5.35pm

GERMAN POLICE HAVE launched a manhunt for a Tunisian man suspected of driving the truck that ploughed through a Berlin Christmas market in a deadly assault claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group.

The man has been named as 24-year-old Anis Amri.

The federal prosecutors office have offered a reward of €100,000 for information leading to the arrest of Amri, who they warned “could be violent and armed”.

Media reports said asylum office papers believed to belong to the man were found in the cab of the 40-tonne lorry used in the attack that killed 12 people on Monday.

Amri was born in the southern city of Tataouine, the reports said.

He applied for asylum in Germany in April and received a temporary residence permit, according to the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

A previous suspect — a 23-year-old Pakistani asylum seeker — was released late yesterday for lack of evidence, prompting fears of a killer on the loose and further rattling nerves in a shocked country.

Twelve people were killed when the Polish-registered articulated truck, laden with steel beams, slammed into the crowded holiday market late on Monday, smashing wooden stalls and crushing victims.

Twenty four people remain in hospital, 14 of whom were seriously injured, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said.

Nightmare

The scenes instantly revived nightmarish memories of the 14 July truck assault in the French Riviera city of Nice, where 86 people were killed by a Tunisian Islamist.

The IS-linked Amaq news agency said “a soldier of the Islamic State” carried out the Berlin carnage “in response to appeals to target citizens of coalition countries”.

There was no evidence to back the claim, nor was the perpetrator identified.

Germany is part of a US-led coalition fighting IS in Iraq and Syria.

De Maiziere said several lines of inquiry were being pursued, but “we should let the security services do their job”.

“No-one will rest until the perpetrator or perpetrators have been caught,” he told ARD public television.

Germany Christmas Market A German police officer stands next to a merry-go-round in the Christmas market in Frankfurt yesterday Source: Michael Probst

The attack comes at a sensitive time for Chancellor Angela Merkel who is running for a fourth term in 2017 but has faced strong criticism over her decision last year to open the country’s borders to refugees.

‘Dangerous criminal’

In a blow to investigators, federal prosecutors announced they had to release the only suspect in custody after finding no forensic evidence to link him to Germany’s deadliest attack in recent years.

The Pakistani man was arrested late on Monday evening after he was reportedly seen jumping out of the truck and fleeing the scene.

But officials had expressed growing doubts over whether they had the right suspect in custody.

“We may have a dangerous criminal in the area,” Berlin’s police chief Klaus Kandt said, adding that security would be boosted while urging “heightened vigilance”.

Following the suspect’s release, Kandt told ARD television “one or more” perpetrators were believed to be on the run and possibly armed.

Images from the aftermath showed the mangled truck with its windscreen smashed, a trail of destruction in its wake, while survivors recounted harrowing stories of near misses and bloody carnage.

Germany in mourning

A Polish man, killed with a gunshot, was found on the truck’s passenger seat, said de Maiziere. He was believed to be the initial driver of the Polish-registered vehicle.

Merkel visited the scene of the carnage for a minute’s silence yesterday and then joined a memorial service in the adjacent Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.

Mourners placed flowers and candles at the site while German flags flew at half-mast.

Germany Christmas Market Berlin's Brandenburg Gate is illuminated in the German colours last night Source: Markus Schreiber

Berlin’s landmark Brandenburg Gate was lit in the national colours in honour of the victims, and foreign leaders, led by US President Barack Obama, sent their condolences.

Europe has been on high alert for most of 2016, with bloody jihadist attacks striking Paris and Brussels.

In July, 15 people were injured in two attacks in the southern German state of Bavaria committed by asylum seekers and claimed by the Islamic State group.

The arrival of 890,000 refugees last year has polarised Germany, with critics calling the influx a serious security threat.

Opponents were quick to seize on the rampage as proof that Merkel’s liberal asylum policy had endangered the country.

Marcus Pretzell of the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party labelled the Christmas market victims “Merkel’s dead”.

© – AFP, 2016

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