The nephew of the Berlin Christmas market attacker Anis Amri and two other suspects have been arrested in Tunisia, officials say.
The three, aged between 18 and 27, were members of a “terrorist cell”, and they were detained overnight, the Tunisian interior ministry said.
Tunisian-born Anis Amri, 24, was shot dead by police near the Italian city of Milan on December 23.
This week’s truck attack at the Breitscheidplatz Christmas market left 12 people dead and 49 injured.
The interior ministry statement said Anis Amri’s nephew – the son of his sister – had confessed that he had communicated with his uncle via the encrypted chat application Telegram to evade security surveillance.
It said the three-member cell had been active in the towns of Fouchana, outside Tunis, and Oueslatia near Anis Amri’s hometown of Kairouan, about 95 miles south of the capital.
The statement added that Anis Amri had sent money to his nephew to travel to Germany and join a jihadist group, and encouraged him to pledge allegiance to ISIS.
Meanwhile, intelligence services in Spain are investigating a possible internet communication between Amri and a Spanish resident on 19 December, Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido told radio station COPE.
On December 23, ISIS released a video showing Anis Amri pledging allegiance to its leader Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Anis Amri was shot dead after opening fire on police officers during a routine police check in the Milan suburb of Sesto San Giovanni, after a three-day Europe-wide manhunt.
According to a United Nations report, an estimated 5,500 Tunisians – mostly young people between the ages of 18 and 35 – were fighting in the ranks of terrorist organizations in Libya, Iraq, Syria and, to a lesser extent, Mali.
In November 2016, the ministry of the interior in Tunis said about 800 fighters had returned to the country.
Anis Amri, the main suspect in Berlin Christmas market attack, has been shot dead by police in Milan, Italy’s interior minister says.
The Tunisian opened fire on police who asked him for ID during a routine patrol in the Sesto San Giovanni area on December 23.
According to German authorities, fingerprints they provided have confirmed the dead man is Anis Amri. They are trying to find out if he had accomplices.
The December 19 attack at Berlin’s Breoscheidplatz Christmas market left 12 dead and 49 injured.
When Italian police stopped the suspect, who was on foot, at 03:00AM local time, he “immediately drew out a gun” and shot at the two policemen, Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti said.
Officer Cristian Movio was injured in the shoulder but his injuries are not life-threatening.
His junior colleague, Luca Scata, who had been in the police for just nine months, was the one who fired the shot which killed Anis Amri.
German officials found Anis Amri’s fingerprints inside the truck that was used in December 19 attack.
Federal prosecutor Peter Frank said the focus of the criminal investigation into the killings now was to establish whether Anis Amri had had a network of supporters who helped him to plan and carry out the attack or to flee.
Investigators are also trying to establish whether the gun used in the shooting in Milan is the same weapon used to kill the Polish driver of the truck, who was found dead with stab and gun wounds in the cab.
The attack took place at the Breitscheidplatz Christmas market near the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in the west of the German capital, Berlin.
According to the Italian news agency Ansa, Anis Amri had traveled by train from France to Turin, and then taken another train to Milan.
From the central station Anis Amri traveled on to Sesto San Giovanni, a working-class area.
Anis Amri, 24, had served a prison sentence in Italy after being convicted of vandalism, threats and theft in 2011.
The Tunisian was known to Italian authorities for his violent behavior while imprisoned.
After his release Anis Amri was asked to leave the country. He later arrived in Germany where he applied for asylum in April 2016.
His application was rejected by the German authorities but they were unable to deport him to Tunisia because he had no valid identification papers.
Anis Amri was named as a suspect in the Berlin attack by German federal prosecutors, and a reward of up to €100,000 ($104,000) was offered for information leading to his arrest.
The German authorities issued an alert for Anis Amri on December 21 after immigration documents identifying him were found in the cab of the lorry used in the deadly attack.
Anis Amri’s family had urged him to give himself up, and on December 23 his mother criticized Italian and German security officials for not sending him back to Tunisia, where the rest of the family still live, in an interview with German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.
A spokesman for Germany’s interior ministry would not comment on reports in the German media that Anis Amri had been filmed at a mosque in Berlin in the hours after the attack.
Separately, police arrested two people in the German city of Oberhausen on suspicion of planning an attack on a shopping centre.
Italian Interior Minsiter Marco Minitti praised the two police officers who had apprehended Anis Amri, and said the operation showed how Italy’s security system was working well.
Berlin’s Breitscheidplatz Christmas market has reopened following the truck attack that killed 12 people and injured 49 more on December 19.
The attacker is a suspected Islamist extremist who drove the truck into a crowd.
German police have installed concrete barriers to prevent a repeat attack.
Meanwhile police have raided homes in Dortmund, but prosecutors denied reports that arrests linked to Tunisian suspect Anis Amri were made.
Anis Amri’s ID was left in the truck and now his fingerprints have been found on the door, reports say.
The truck attack victims included at least six Germans and an Israeli tourist.
Image source Twitter
German newspaper Bild quoted the federal prosecutor’s office as saying four people who were in contact with Anis Amri had been arrested.
However, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office denied the report, saying he was not aware of any arrests.
There were also raids at a migrant centre in Emmerich in western Germany, where Anis Amri stayed briefly last year, and at addresses in Berlin.
Anis Amri’s name came to the attention of German counter-terror services last month and he reportedly moved in the circle of extremist preacher Ahmad Abdelazziz A, known as Abu Walaa, who was arrested last month and charged with supporting ISIS.
The Ruhrnachrichten news website said Anis Amri had lived in Dortmund from time to time and residents at one block of flats said he had spent time with a German of Serbian origin, Boban S., who was arrested last month along with Abu Walaa.
Anis Amri was on a US no-fly list, had researched explosives online and had communicated with ISIS at least once via the Telegram Messenger service, the New York Times reported.
ISIS has said one of its militants carried out the attack but has offered no evidence.
Anis Amri had also offered himself for a suicide attack, Spiegel magazine reported, quoting communications intercepted for the prosecution of hate preachers in Germany.
However, what he said was not believed to be explicit enough for him to be arrested, the magazine said.
Anis Amri had also been put under surveillance in Germany earlier in the year on suspicion of planning a robbery to pay for automatic weapons for use in an attack.
However, the surveillance was reportedly called off after it turned up nothing more than drug-dealing in a Berlin park and a bar brawl.
Anis Amri, 24, is said to have entered Germany in 2015 and was due to be deported in June but stayed because there was a delay in receiving paperwork from Tunisia.
He had a history of crime, serving 4 years in an Italian prison for arson and convicted in absentia in Tunisia for a violent robbery.
A police notice lists six different aliases used by Amri, born on 22 December 1992, who at times tried to pass himself off as an Egyptian or Lebanese.
The German authorities warn the suspect could be armed and dangerous and are offering a reward of up to €100,000 ($104,000) for information leading to his arrest.
It is thought Anis Amri may have been injured in a struggle with the Polish driver of the truck, found murdered in the cab.
Investigators believe the truck was hijacked on December 19 when it was parked in an industrial zone in north-western Berlin pending delivery of its cargo.
A “probable terrorist attack” is being investigated in Germany after a man ploughed a truck into a Christmas market in the heart of Berlin, killing 12 people and injuring 48.
German police have detained the driver, who security sources reportedly say is an Afghan or Pakistani asylum seeker.
The man arrived in Germany in February as a refugee, the DPA news agency said.
According to the Tagesspiegel, he was known to the police for minor crimes, but not terror links.
Berlin police tweeted: “All police measures related to the suspected terrorist attack at Breitscheidplatz are progressing at full steam and with the necessary diligence.”
German politicians had avoided branding the bloodshed a terror attack in the hours immediately following, but Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told ARD television, “there are many things pointing to one”.
The Christmas market is at Breitscheidplatz, close to the Kurfuerstendamm, the main shopping street in Berlin’s west.
The crash happened in the shadow of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which was damaged in a World War Two bombing raid and preserved as a symbol of peace.
The truck, which was loaded with steel beams, veered into the market at 20:14 local time,one of its busiest times. It crashed through wooden huts and stands packed with tourists and locals.
The truck driver was reportedly seized after leaving his truck and fleeing on foot.
Image source Twitter
Berlin police spokesman Winfried Wenzel told die Welt that the man ran down the street towards the Tiergarten, a large public park.
A witness followed him at a distance for more than a mile, and called the police, who quickly detained him near the Victory Column monument.
The police spokesman speculated that the driver may have wanted to “find shelter in the darkness of the park”.
According to German media, the suspect was from Afghanistan or Pakistan and had entered the country as a refugee in the past year.
Police confirmed that a passenger was found dead in the truck, and said he was a Polish national. There are fears he may have been the original driver of the vehicle, and that he was subject to a hijacking.
Ariel Zurawski, the Polish owner of the truck, confirmed that his driver was missing and had been unreachable since 16:00 on December 19.
“We don’t know what happened to him,” he told the AFP.
“He’s my cousin, I’ve known him since I was a kid. I can vouch for him.”
The truck was registered in Poland and police said it was believed to have been stolen from a building site there, the AP reports.
Both ISIS and al-Qaeda have urged their followers to use trucks as a means to attack crowds.
The US labeled the tragedy an apparent “terrorist attack” and pledged its support.
President-elect Donald Trump blamed “Islamist terrorists” for a “slaughter” of Christians in Berlin.
Donald Trump tweeted: “Today there were terror attacks in Turkey, Switzerland and Germany – and it is only getting worse. The civilized world must change thinking!”