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Opposition accuses German govt of hampering attack probe

Last Updated Jun 11, 2021 at 7:30 am MDT

BERLIN (AP) — Opposition parties on Friday accused the German government of hampering the work of a parliamentary investigation into the 2016 truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, in which an Islamist extremist killed 12 people and injured dozens more.

A cross-party panel is due to deliver its final report on the attack soon, but lawmakers from the Greens, the Free Democrats and the Left party alleged that witnesses dodged questions on what intelligence agencies knew about the attacker, Anis Amri, whom security officials portrayed as a “lone culprit” though the attack was claimed by the Islamic State group.

Benjamin Strasser, a lawmaker for the centrist Free Democrats, accused governing parties of trying to “put a lid on this case” and said the government had repeatedly withheld important files from parliament.

The opposition lawmakers said evidence showed Amri, a failed asylum-seeker, had been part of a “network” of extremists in Germany and abroad who provided training, logistical and financial support.

Irene Mihalic, a Green party representative on the panel, said that during three years of hearings lawmakers were unable to get answers about Amri’s meeting with two other known Islamists shortly before the attack, one of whom was later spotted at the scene.

DNA found in the driver’s cabin of the hijacked truck used in the attack so far hasn’t been attributed to anybody, while the source of a gun Amri used to kill the truck driver remains unclear, said Mihalic.

Amri, who managed to flee Germany, was killed in a shootout with Italian police days after the attack. Mihalic noted that Amri had a large sum of cash on him when he died, the source of which also hasn’t been determined.

Martina Renner of the Left party said the case also showed that important information wasn’t shared between various state and federal security agencies, while key decisions by police and intelligence officials weren’t documented.

A separate inquiry in 2017 concluded that security agencies may have missed an opportunity to arrest Amri months before the attack.

The three opposition parties called for Germany to recognize March 11 as the official day of remembrance for victims of terrorism. It was adopted by the European Union on the anniversary of the 2004 bombings by Islamic extremists in Madrid that killed 191 people.

Frank Jordans, The Associated Press