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German Officials Seek Tunisian in Connection With Christmas Market Attack in Berlin

The German news media reported that the Tunisian man had a history of using aliases; had applied for asylum in Germany; had ties with Abu Walaa, a 32-year-old Iraqi Salafist who was arrested in Germany last month and accused of recruiting would-be jihadists to fight for the Islamic State; and had been ordered deported at least once. Mr. Mayer declined to comment on those reports.

The search for another asylum seeker in connection with the terrorist assault, in this case one who appears to have been known to the authorities, put new pressure on Ms. Merkel, who has come under criticism from the far right over her support for the migrants that Germany welcomed last year.

An identity document found in a wallet left on the floor of the truck led the German authorities to seek the Tunisian man, said Frank Tempel of the Left Party. The document showed that the suspect had been allowed to remain in Germany but that he had not been granted full asylum.

The document indicated that the man was born in Tataouine, a desert town in southern Tunisia, in 1992, the news outlets said; the document identified him only by his first name and an initial, Anis A., the newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported.

The Tunisian man was recorded as having entered Italy in 2012. He traveled to Germany in July 2015 and applied for asylum in April this year, receiving papers that allowed him to stay temporarily. He lived for a time in housing designated for asylum seekers in the city of Emmerich am Rhein, in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, and in Berlin.

In August, he was arrested in the southern city of Friedrichshafen with a fake Italian document and released a short while later, according to Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Reached by phone, an official in Kleve, the town in North Rhine-Westphalia near the Dutch border where the Tunisian was reportedly registered, said she was not authorized to release any information about the man, citing privacy laws and the continuing investigation.

Tataouine is a town in the impoverished south of Tunisia, on the edge of the Sahara. Tunisians make up one of the largest groups of foreign fighters in Syria and Libya and have held leadership roles in the Islamic State. Tunisian security officials say the militants have been active in recruiting young volunteers in Tunisia and have links to immigrant networks in Europe.

A prominent Tunisian commander in the Islamic State, Boubaker al-Hakim, who was wanted in connection with terrorist attacks in Tunisia and was linked to the January 2015 attack on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, was reported killed last month in a drone strike in Raqqa, Syria.

According to Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Tunisian man being sought in Germany had lived in the city of Dortmund with a man named Boban S. who has been arrested and accused of involvement with the Islamic State.

Boban S., in turn, is reported to have connections with Abu Walaa, the Iraqi who is known as “the man with no face,” because he often preached in Arabic and in poor German, with his back to the camera. The authorities arrested Abu Walaa on Nov. 8.

Abu Walaa, who has also been identified by officials as Ahmed Abdulaziz A., made his base in Hildesheim, a city of 100,000 south of Hanover, where he drew an increasingly devoted following and even offered his own app in 2014.

He was charged with recruiting terrorists and openly supporting the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Officials emphasized that they were not yet certain that the Tunisian man had carried out the attack, and officials cautioned against jumping to conclusions. On Tuesday, the authorities arrested a 23-year-old Pakistani man who had applied for asylum in Germany, but they released him hours later, citing a lack of evidence.

In a country where laws and traditions strongly emphasize personal privacy, the identities of the victims of the Berlin attack have barely begun to emerge.

One of the victims was a 65-year-old woman from Neuss, a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, according to news reports.

Fabrizia Di Lorenzo, an Italian transportation specialist who has been living in Germany for three years, has been missing since Monday, and her father, Gaetano Di Lorenzo, said he feared the worst.

“We are here with my wife, waiting for the DNA results,” he said in an interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera. “We are waiting for confirmation, but I am not deluding myself.”

The daughter’s cellphone and transit pass were found near the scene immediately after the attack, her relatives and friends reported Tuesday on social media.

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the attack “may have claimed the life of an Israeli citizen.” He was referring to Dalia Elkayam, who has been missing since Monday and whose husband, Rami Elkayam, was seriously injured in the attack.

The first victim of the attack was a Polish truck driver, Lukasz Urban, 37, who had a wife and young child, and who was found dead in the cab of the truck. He had been stabbed and shot by whoever carried out the attack.

Source: NYT > World

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