Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni said Thursday that there are no indications the Tunisian fugitive from the Berlin Christmas market attack, who was shot dead near Milan, had any significant contacts in Italy. Italian investigators have been trying to determine whether Anis Amri tapped a jihadi network in Italy, his European port of entry when he left Tunisia in early 2011 and the end of his nearly four-day flight following the Berlin truck attack that left 12 dead.
“No particular networks have emerged in Italy,” Gentiloni told reporters in Rome ahead of a security meeting in Milan headed by his interior minister. But the prime minister said there still is a need to enhance anti-terror measures, including making it easier to deport migrants living in the country illegally. Existing measures already permit Italy to expel foreign nationals with suspected terror ties, with 66 carried out so far this year and 152 since the beginning of 2015.
They include a Tunisian man living in the northern province of Brescia who was expelled Thursday. The Interior Ministry alleged he received instructions last month to carry out an attack in Italy “in retaliation for operations by Italy in Libya.” Interior Minister Marco Minniti said the deported man apparently had no connection with fellow Tunisian Amri and there were no indications any attack was imminent.
“But the expulsion was important because he wasn’t just any character. He had a profile that was potentially interesting,” Minniti said. Authorities in Rome, meanwhile, seized cellphones during a search of two apartments where Amri stayed in 2015, the news agency ANSA reported. One is home to a Tunisian currently jailed on a drug dealing conviction.
Amri died of a single gunshot wound last Friday after shooting an officer in the shoulder during a routine police stop in the working class Milan suburb of Sesto San Giovanni. He was spotted alone outside a deserted train station in the early morning hours, drawing the officers’ suspicion. Minniti said such preventative policing was key to the terror fight.
“We are facing a high level of unpredictability, and the only way of avoiding these actions is to control the territory,” Minniti said. Amri had crossed the border from France by train hours earlier, getting off in the Italian border town of Bardonecchia, then taking a regional train to Turin and another to Milan. His ultimate destination remains unclear. Gentiloni credited good police work for ending Amri’s flight, but said the government would look at further strengthening anti-terrorism measures. That would include steps “to make more efficient the repatriation mechanisms from the migrant centers,” he said.