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BERLIN (AFP) – German authorities were under fire Thursday after it emerged that the prime suspect in Berlin’s deadly truck attack, a rejected Tunisian asylum seeker, was known as a potentially dangerous jihadist.
German prosecutors have issued a Europe-wide wanted notice for 24-year-old Anis Amri, offering a 100,000-euro ($104,000) reward for information leading to his arrest and warning he “could be violent and armed”.
Asylum office papers believed to belong to Amri, alleged to have links to the radical Islamist scene, were found in the cab of the 40-tonne lorry that rammed through a crowded Christmas market in Berlin on Monday, killing 11.
The twelfth victim, the hijacked truck’s Polish driver, was found shot in the cab.
Police Wednesday searched a refugee center in Emmerich, western Germany, where Amri stayed a few months ago, as well as two apartments in Berlin, the media reported.
But as the Europe-wide manhunt intensified, questions were also raised about how the suspect had been able to avoid arrest and deportation despite being on the radar of several security agencies.
“The authorities had him in their crosshairs and he still managed to vanish,” said Der Spiegel weekly on its website.
The Sueddeutsche Zeitung criticized police for wasting time focusing on a Pakistani suspect immediately after the truck assault, in what turned out to be a false lead.
“It took a while before the federal police turned to Amri as a suspect,” it said.
The attack, Germany’s deadliest in recent years, has been claimed by the Islamic State group. Twenty-four people remain in hospital, 14 of whom were seriously injured.