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Germany hunts attacker’s allies

BERLIN (AFP) – Germany on Saturday hunted for possible accomplices of Anis Amri, the suspected Berlin truck attacker who was gunned down by Italian police, as Tunisia announced it had arrested his nephew.

Tunisia’s interior ministry said the nephew and two other suspected jihadists, aged between 18 and 27, were detained on Friday and were members of a ‘‘terrorist cell’’ connected to Tunisian-born Amri.

It made no direct link between the trio and the Berlin attack on Monday, when Amri is believed to have hijacked a truck and used it to mow down revellers at a Christmas market, killing 12 people.

Amri, 24, then went on the run and was the focus of a frantic four-day manhunt, before being shot dead by police in Milan after opening fire first.

The Berlin rampage was claimed by the Islamic State group, which released a video Friday in which Amri is shown pledging allegiance to IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The Tunisian interior ministry said in a statement that Amri had sent money to his nephew so he could join him in Germany and had allegedly urged him ‘‘to pledge allegiance to Daesh (IS)’’.

The unnamed nephew also claimed that his uncle was the leader of a jihadist group based in Germany and known as the Abu al-Walaa brigade, it added.

The arrests come as German authorities are racing to find out whether Amri had help from accomplices before or after the attack.

‘‘It is very important for us to determine whether there was a network of accomplices… in the preparation or the execution of the attack, or the flight of the suspect,’’ federal prosecutor Peter Frank said Friday.

Seven of the victims killed in the attack were German nationals, a federal police spokeswoman told AFP. The other five came from the Czech Republic, Italy, Israel, Poland and Ukraine.

The fact that Amri was able to travel to Italy unhindered despite a Europe-wide arrest warrant has raised uncomfortable questions for intelligence agencies.

German security services have also faced criticism for not keeping better tabs on Amri before the Berlin carnage, even though he was a known criminal with links to the Islamist scene.

But Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere denied there had been a blanket security failure.

It ‘‘is impossible to monitor every person suspected of posing a threat around the clock,’’ he told the newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has pledged a ‘‘comprehensive’’ analysis of how Amri was able to slip through the net and vowed to speed up the deportation of rejected asylum seekers like him.

The fugitive was killed after firing at two officers who had stopped him for a routine identity check Friday near Milan’s Sesto San Giovanni railway station.

Media reports said a train ticket found in Amri’s backpack suggested he had boarded a train in Chambery, southeastern France, and passed through Turin before arriving in Milan.

Milan police said Amri had a few hundred euros on him but no telephone.