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Police Arrest 2 Brothers, Unsure They're Connected to Berlin Attack

  • VOA News

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Justice Minister Heiko Maas (left) and Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere during a statement after visiting the Bundeskriminalamt Federal Crime Office Police in Berlin, Germany, Dec. 22, 2016.

German police said Friday they have arrested two brothers who were suspected of planning an attack on a shopping mall in Oberhausen, in the West German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Police say the two men, ages 28 and 31, from Kosovo, were arrested on a tip from intelligence sources.

It was not immediately clear if the men were connected with the attack on a market hosting a holiday event earlier this week in the capital.

Christmas market reopens

The Christmas market in Berlin, where 12 people were killed Monday by a man driving a large truck, has reopened with a heavy police presence and concrete barriers installed around its edges.

The event’s organizers made the decision to reopen the market without party music or bright lights, which have been replaced by candles and flowers left at the site of the attack as a tribute for those who were killed.

A man takes a picture of candles and flowers after the reopening of the Christmas market at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, Germany, Dec. 22, 2016, three days after a truck ran into the crowded market and killed several people.
A man takes a picture of candles and flowers after the reopening of the Christmas market at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, Germany, Dec. 22, 2016, three days after a truck ran into the crowded market and killed several people.

Amri is prime suspect

Authorities are engaged in a manhunt across Europe in search of a 24-year-old Tunisian man whom German officials said should have been deported months ago.

Anis Amri, the top suspect in the attack, was a rejected asylum seeker who had been under police surveillance since police received a tip that he might try to buy weapons for a possible attack. But that investigation was dropped in September.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said during a Thursday news conference there is a “high probability” Amri is responsible for the attack.

“We can report today that we have new information that the suspect is with high probability really the perpetrator,” he said.

Police found Amri’s identification documents and fingerprints in the cab of the truck, German officials confirmed Thursday.

His asylum application was denied six months ago, but he was not sent back to Tunisia because of problems with his documents.

Why was Amri in Germany?

Those revelations have renewed questions in Germany about how the country vets the thousands of people who have entered the country looking for asylum. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said a day after the attack it would be hard to bear if an asylum seeker were responsible.

“This would be particularly sickening for the many, many Germans who work to help refugees every day and for the many people who really need our help and are making an effort to integrate in our country,” she said.

Amri’s family members said they were stunned to learn he was the main suspect in the attack, and his brother urged Amri to turn himself in.

“I ask that he turn himself into the police,” Abdelkader Amri told the Associated Press. “If it is proved that he is involved, we disassociate ourselves from it.”

Abdelkader Amri said Anis Amri left Tunisia in 2011 to go to Europe, and he may have been radicalized in an Italian prison, where he served three years for setting a refugee shelter on fire.

After leaving jail, Amri arrived in Germany in July 2015, where he requested asylum. His asylum request was denied, but he could not be deported because he had no passport and Tunisia declined to accept him.

Since he couldn’t be deported, Amri was issued a stay of deportation paper, which is the document police found in the truck he used to kill 12 people.

Merkel proud of Germany

Merkel said Thursday she was proud of the public reaction to the attack and how calmly most people took it.

“I am certain we will meet this test we are facing,” she said.

A U.S. State Department official said two U.S. citizens were among the 48 people injured during the attack but provided no further details about those people.

The Islamic State group said it inspired the attack through its call for people to strike members of a coalition that is fighting the group in Syria and Iraq.

Before Amri emerged as the main suspect, police had detained a Pakistani man on suspicion of involvement in the Christmas-market attack, but he was later cleared and released.

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