Stockholm Truck Attack Kills 3; Many Seriously Injured: Terrorism Is Suspected

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

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Police officers near the site where a truck crashed into the Ahlens department store in central Stockholm on Friday. Credit Jonathan Nackstrand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A man steered a stolen beer truck into a crowd of people and then rammed it into a department store, killing at least three people in what officials were calling a terrorist attack in the heart of Stockholm on Friday afternoon.

“Sweden has been attacked. All indications are that it was a terrorist attack,” Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said in a statement.

The suspect in the attack was still at large. But at a news conference later in the evening, the Swedish police released a photo of a man being sought in connection for questioning.

The authorities said they did not know if it had been an isolated assault, or something bigger. The Swedish intelligence agency said “a large number” of people had been wounded.

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A picture showing a man who is wanted in connection with the truck attack in Stockholm was released by the Swedish police on Friday. Credit Stockholm Police

Mats Löfving, the head of national operative department of the Swedish police, said, “This is now declared a national security event,” adding that officers across the nation were on heightened alert.

The Swedish Parliament was on lockdown, according to news reports. Train service in and out of the city grounded to a halt, and the police, who blocked off the affected area, urged people to stay at home and to avoid the city center.

The police said the first emergency call came in around 2:50 p.m. local time as the attack unfolded in Drottninggatan, Stockholm’s busiest shopping street. Witnesses described a scene of panic and terror.

“I saw hundreds of people running; they ran for their lives” before the truck crashed into the Ahlens department store, a witness identified only as Anna told the newspaper Aftonbladet.

 STOCKHOLM
Drottninggatan
Mäster Samuelsgatan
Crashed here
Ahlens Department Store

Bystanders fled after a truck rammed into a store on a busy shopping street on Friday afternoon.

By TWITTER/JOHNNY CHADDA on Publish Date April 7, 2017. Photo by Twitter/Johnny Chadda.

At first, she said, she thought the noise was people moving things around the store, but then the fire alarm went off and staff members told her and other shoppers to get out of the building.

“We were running, we were crying, everyone was in shock,” Ms. Libert said. “We rushed down the street, and I glanced to the right and saw the truck. People were lying on the ground. They were not moving.”

Ms. Libert, who followed others as they were guided by officials to shelter, added, “My sister in law and some friends are close to the scene and at lockdown, can’t leave their office.”

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The front part of the truck ended up inside the department store.Credit Jonathan Nackstrand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

She said that she usually avoided busy areas that could be potential terrorist targets, but that she had decided to take the Friday afternoon off to do some shopping.

“Some people felt that this was just a matter of time,” she said. “Paris, Brussels, London and now Stockholm. I just had a feeling something like this would happen.”

After the assailant plowed into people, the front of the truck ended up inside the department store.

A representative of the Spendrups brewery told Radio Sweden that the vehicle had been taken earlier in the day. A spokesman for the company told SVT, a national public broadcaster, that the truck had been stolen while the driver was loading it from the rear.

The brewery’s driver told the police that a masked man stole the vehicle, and that he was injured trying to stop him, the authorities said.

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The police outside Stockholm’s central train station. Security was increased on Friday after the attack at a department store nearby. Credit News Agency/Reuters

At the news conference, officials released a photo of a man wearing a hoodie. They did not name him as a suspect, saying only that they wanted to question him in connection with the attack.

The national police chief, Dan Eliasson, said, “We have the truck and the driver who usually drives it, but we do not have contact with the person or persons who drove it.”

Mr. Löfving, also of the police, asked for the public’s help in sharing the photo: “We want to get in touch with this man.”

The authorities also said that they could not confirm the number of dead or injured until they received more information from the hospitals.

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People reacted after the attack at a department store in Stockholm. Credit News Agency/Reuters

The chief medical doctor at Stockholm’s Karolinska University Hospital, Nelson Follin, told the newspaper Dagens Nyheter that the hospital was treating “a handful” of people.

“The injuries are quite serious, but for now I cannot give further comments on conditions,” Dr. Follin said.

Previous accounts of shots being fired in parts of Stockholm were unfounded, the police said, adding that officers across Sweden were protecting high-risk sites.

The attack reverberated as far away as Norway, where the police said on Twitter that officers in that nation’s largest cities and at the airport in Oslo would be armed until further notice following the attack in Stockholm.

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Some of the wounded in a street near the site of the attack. Credit Per Haljestam/Reuters

The assault came after several other episodes in Europe in the past year in which a vehicle was used to attack people.

The Islamic State group revived the idea of using cars as weapons after it broke with Al Qaeda in 2014. In the past year, ISIS militants have claimed responsibility for the deaths of more than 100 people in Europe.

In France, a man drove into a crowd on a busy seaside promenade during Bastille Day celebrations in Nice.

Another attacker plowed a truck into shoppers at a Christmas market in Berlin.

And last month, an assailant drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge near Parliament in London.

Other attempts, including an episode in which a man tried to drive over pedestrians in Antwerp, Belgium, claimed no victims, but have contributed to a sense of dread across the Continent.

Although some Swedes have expressed concern that immigration has led to a crime wave in the country — and President Trump seemed to suggest in a speech on Feb. 18 that there had been an attack in Sweden, when in fact nothing had occurred — the country and the region remain largely peaceful and safe.

The most notable exception came in 2010, when an assailant killed himself and wounded two others after detonating two bombs in central Stockholm, on a side street not far from where the attack on Friday took place.

The attack in 2010 was said to be the first suicide bombing in Scandinavia, and it caused consternation in Sweden. It was linked to an Iraqi-born Swede who had attended college in Britain.

On Friday, the police said they were well-trained for these types of episodes. “Last week we rehearsed a similar scenario,” said Anders Thornberg, chief of national intelligence.

Continue reading the main story

Berlin Truck Attacker Shot And Killed In Milan Italy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

ISIS-linked news agency releases video of Berlin attacker swearing allegiance to the radical group

Suspected Berlin attacker killed in Milan
 
Tunisian migrant Anis Amri was shot and killed in Milan early on Dec. 23, after a massive manhunt. The 24-year-old suspect of the Berlin Christmas market attack shot a police officer in Italy before he killed in a shoot-out. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)
December 23 at 10:39 AM
BERLIN — The suspect in the Berlin Christmas market attack was shot dead Friday by an Italian police trainee after an identity check in Milan, ending an international manhunt but raising new fears as an Islamic State video purported to show the attacker calling for more bloodshed in Europe.The 24-year-old Tunisian, Anis Amri, was killed following a dramatic encounter in the Piazza I Maggio in the Sesto San Giovanni area outside Milan, after a two-man patrol stopped him for questioning around 3:15 a.m. on suspicion of burglary.One of the officers requested his identification. Amri responded by pretending to fish in his backpack for documents. Instead, he pulled a gun, shooting one officer in the shoulder.Amri, who spoke Italian, then ducked behind a car, shouting “poliziotti bastardi” — police bastards. The second patrolmen — trainee Luca Scatà — fired back, killing Amri, according to Italian officials.

“He was the most-wanted man in Europe” said Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti. “There is absolutely no doubt that the person killed is Anis Amri.”

In Germany, Federal Attorney General Peter Frank said fingerprints confirmed Amri was the man killed. But German and European authorities grappled with how Amri — who Italian authorities say traveled by train through France — managed to slip out of Berlin and make it all the way to Milan almost three days after he was named as the prime suspect.

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday thanked Italian authorities, while adding “the Amri case raises a number of questions . . . We will now press ahead and look into in how far state measures need to be changed.”

Hours after the shootout, the Islamic State-linked news agency, Amaq, released a video the purports to show Amri swearing allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of the Islamic State.

Speaking in black-hooded windbreaker on Berlin bridge, only 1.5 miles from the German chancellery, he called on Muslims in Europe to rise up and strike at “crusaders.”

“God willing, we will slaughter you like pigs,” he said in the video, whose date and location was not given but looked like it was filmed in winter weather.

He added, “to my brothers everywhere, fight for the sake of Allah. Protect our religion. Everyone can do this in their own way. People who can fight should fight, even in Europe.”

The authenticity of the video could not be independently confirmed, but previous material released by Amaq has been credible.

Earlier, a statement carried on Amaq described Amri as inspired by the Islamic State.

In Oueslatia, Amri’s bleak home town in Tunisia, news of his death had reached his mother, five sisters and three brothers, who until the end held hopes that the German authorities were after the wrong guy.

His 30-year old brother Walid Amri sounded distressed and was struggling to speak over the phone. Women were wailing in the background.

“This is a very difficult time for the entire family,” he said, before his voice broke.

While Amri’s death ended the hunt for the suspect who drove a truck into a teeming Christmas market on Monday, killing 12 and wounding dozens, it also raised a whole new set of questions.

Amri appeared to travel right under the noses of European authorities, through a circuitous route.

After leaving Berlin, Amri is believed to have traveled by train through the French city of Chambery and appears to have stopped in Turin, Italy, before arriving in Milan, said Alberto Nobili, coordinator of the anti-terrorism department at the district attorney’s office in Milan. Milan police say they have surveillance video placing Amri at Milan’s train station around 1 a.m.

German officials said the investigation would accelerate toward possible accomplices and the route Amri took to escape Berlin. “If there are others who are guilty or accomplices, we will hold them accountable,” Merkel said.

Nobili said Italian authorities were sharing ballistic information with the Germans to ascertain whether the gun used to shoot the Italian police officer was the same one used to slay the Polish driver whose truck Amri is believed to have hijacked on Monday before slamming into the Christmas market, killing 12 and wounding dozens.

His death in Italy also raised serious questions about the handling of the case by German authorities. German investigators only uncovered their single biggest clue — his wallet with identification left in the truck’s cabin — the following day after the attack, suggesting the delay may have facilitated his flight from Germany.

“We need to increase international collaboration against terrorism,” Gentiloni said.

Minniti said he had phoned the wounded Italian officer, Cristian Movio, and Scatà, an agent-in-training. Already, Facebook sites and other social media sites were popping up, including ““give Luca Scatà a medal” and “Luca Scatà world HERO.”

“Thanks to him Italians can have a Merry Christmas,” Minniti said.

By heading to Italy, Amri was, to some extent, retracing his steps. He had first arrived in Europe in April 2011 on the Italian island of Lampedusa, and spent four years in jail in Sicily, where Italian officials believe he was radicalized.

The news of Amri’s death came as German police said they had thwarted yet another terrorist attack planned against a shopping mall and arrested two brothers from Kosovo.

Authorities detained the brothers, aged 28 and 31, after receiving an intelligence tip-off, according to North Rhine Westphalia police. Security at the Centro Mall in the western German city of Oberhausen has been beefed up.

Amri had a criminal record in Europe and his native Tunisia, where he was accused of hijacking a van with a gang of thieves. Italian authorities jailed him in 2011 for arson and violent assault at his migrant reception center for minors on the isle of Sicily.

There, his family noted, the boy who once drank alcohol — and never went to mosque — suddenly got religion.

He began to pray, asking his family to send him religious books. The Italian Bureau of Prisons submitted a report to a government ­anti-terrorism commission on Amri’s rapid radicalization, warning that he was embracing dangerous ideas of Islamist ­extremism and had threatened Christian inmates, according to an Italian government official with knowledge of the situation. The dossier was first reported by ANSA, the state-run Italian news service.

The Italians tried to deport Amri but could not. They sent his fingerprints and photo to the Tunisian consulate, but the authorities there refused to recognize Amri as a citizen. The Italians, officials there say, could not even establish his true identity. Italy’s solution: After four years in jail, they released him anyway — giving him seven days to leave the country.

He had previously known links to Islamist extremists, and German efforts to deport him also failed because Tunisia had initially refused to take him back.

In Germany, the case was already having serious repercussions — with talk of pushing through stricter legislation on the deportation of migrants, particularly those with criminal records. The Germans are especially seeking to deport North Africans who have claimed asylum, and whose countries of origin have refused to take them back.

Merkel said Wednesday she had earlier spoken on the phone with Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi.

“I told the president that we have to significantly speed up the return process and continue to increase the number of returnees.” she said. “We can be relieved at the end of this week that an acute danger has ended. The general threat of terrorism, however, continues to exist, as it has for many years.”

Pitrelli reported from Rome. Stephanie Kirchner in Berlin contributed to this report.

The Tunisian Suspect In Berlin Attack Faced Terror Probe Earlier This Year

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Tunisian suspect in Berlin Christmas market attack faced past German terror probe, official says

December 21 at 12:19 PM
The prime suspect sought in the deadly attack on a Berlin Christmas market — a 24-year old Tunisian migrant — was the subject of a terror probe in Germany earlier this year and was not deported following his rejection for asylum because Tunisia initially refused to take him back, a senior official said Wednesday.The suspect — who went by numerous aliases, but had a Facebook page under the name Anis Amri — became the subject of a national manhunt Wednesday after investigators discovered a wallet with his identity documents in the truck used in Monday’s attack, two law enforcement officials told The Washington Post.

German authorities issued a 100,000 euro ($105,000) reward for information leading to his capture, warning citizens not to approach the 5-foot-8, 165-pound Amri, who they described as “violent and armed.”

His past record, however, further deepened the political fallout from the bloodshed — pointing to flaws in the deportation system and putting a harsh light on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s humanitarian bid to open the nation’s doors to nearly 1 million asylum seekers last year.

Although the vast majority of those who flooded into Europe were on the move to escape war and unrest, dozens of terror suspects have slipped into Germany and other nations posing as migrants.

Islamic State claims responsibility for Berlin truck attack that killed 12

Twelve people were killed and dozens more were injured after a large truck plowed into a Christmas market in Berlin. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack. (Victoria Walker, Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

The dragnet for the suspect appeared to initially focus on the German state of North Rhine Westphalia as well as Berlin, both places where the Tunisian suspect once lived, and where police units moved in for possible raids.

The interior minister in North Rhine Westphalia, Ralf Jäger, said the Tunisian man had bounced around Germany since arriving in July 2015, living in the southern city of Freiburg, and later in Berlin.

He applied for asylum, but was rejected in June of this year and became the subject of deportation proceedings on suspicion of “preparing a serious act of violent subversion.” Jäger said the Tunisian had not been deported because — like many asylum seekers in Germany — he did not have a passport.

The Tunisian government, Jäger explained, initially denied he was their national, and delayed issuing his passport. The passport, he said, finally arrived Wednesday.

“I don’t want to comment further on that circumstance,” said a visibly angered Jäger.

Officials suggested that the leaking of the suspect’s name and photograph in the press may have upset attempts to find him. Germany’s interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, would only tell reporters in Berlin that Germany had registered “a suspect” as wanted European databases. He refused to give further details.

The two German law enforcement officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive case, said investigators discovered the man’s documents in the cabin of the truck that barreled into the market, killing 12 people, wounding dozens and reigniting debates about security and immigration.

It remained unclear whether authorities believe the Tunisian man drove the truck, but police nevertheless made tracking him a priority.

The asylum seeker had at first received a “toleration” status from the government, meaning he was not granted full asylum but permitted to remain in Germany legally.

Germany’s Bild newspaper ran a photo of the suspect, who had several aliases and was apparently born in the southern Tunisian desert town of Tataouine in 1992.

Witnesses described one man fleeing the scene after the truck — packed with a cargo of steel — roared into revelers at a traditional Christmas market. One suspect, a Pakistani asylum-seeker, was arrested on Monday night, but authorities later released him due to lack of evidence.

According to the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Tunisian suspect arrived in Italy in 2012, but moved to Germany in July 2015. In April 2016, he applied for asylum, but disappeared earlier this month. The paper said he had been using eight different names.

The revelation sparked outrage among conservative politicians, and seemed set to damage Merkel, who is running for reelection next year.

“There is a connection between the refugee crisis and the heightened terror threat in Germany,” said Stefan Mayer, parliamentary spokesperson for the Christian Social Union party on domestic affairs told reporters. “This can also be seen in the case of this Tunisian.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung, along with other German media outlets, added that the man had contacts with a network run by a radical Islamist known as Abu Walaa, who was arrested last month for allegedly recruiting Islamic State fighters.

The new information emerged as German investigators raced for clues in the hunt for suspects in the deadly assault, poring over forensic evidence and GPS data as they sought to retrace the steps of the runway attacker. They were re-questioning witnesses and analyzing DNA traces found in the truck, and well as on the body of a dead Polish man in the passenger seat.

The Pole worked for a trucking company and was delivering a payload of steel to Berlin. Investigators are currently going on the assumption that he was taken hostage by the assailant — and may even have died a hero. Jörg Radek deputy chairman of the German Trade Union of the Police, said evidence suggested that “a fight took place in the driver’s cabin.” As it careened toward the crowded market, the truck was not driving straight, but “in a zigzag line,” he noted.

Bild also quoted an investigator as saying the Polish man — who was shot dead — also had received multiple stab wounds in a manner that suggested he may have tried to grab the steering wheel to stop the assault as it happened.

The Islamic State on Tuesday claimed responsibility for inspiring the unknown attacker — a claim as yet unproven and possibly just opportunistic — leading some politicians to quickly point the finger at Merkel’s humanitarian move last year to open Germany’s door to asylum seekers from the war-torn Middle East.

Yet others quickly pushed back, calling the accusations a politicizing of tragedy that had no place in progressive Germany.

On Tuesday, Horst Seehofer, chairman of the Christian Social Union, sister party of Merkel’s Christian Democrats said: “We owe it to the victims, those affected and the entire population to rethink and readjust our entire immigration and security policy.”

On Wednesday, Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann defended Seehofer from a barrage of critics claiming he and others were seizing on the attack to further their anti-migrant stance.

“This is no sweeping judgment of refugees,” he said. “Compared to the high number of refugees, these are only very few, but the risks are obvious and we must not close our eyes.”

A number of newspaper editorials and other politicians criticized Herrman’s remarks and similar statements as premature and lacking in respect for the victims.

Commentator Jürgen Kaube in the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said such comments risked over-generalizing Muslim migrants and were implicitly turning the hateful views of the Islamic State into “the true representative of the Muslim world.”

“It is appalling if there are now calls to reconsider the refugee policy as a whole,” the paper Die Tageszeitung wrote in an editorial. “Why for heaven’s sake? . . . What happened in Berlin was long feared. An act of brutal violence. The only effective defense: to keep calm.”

There were also growing calls for the deployment of more police on the streets with military-style weapons — a frequent sight in France and Belgium, for instance, but far more unusual in pacifist Germany.

Klaus Bouillon, head of a conference of interior ministers from German states, declared on Tuesday that the country was now “in a state of war.” He called for beefed up security at public events.

At the normally quaint and picturesque Christmas markets in at least three German cities — Mainz, Magdeburg and Dresden — concrete barriers were quickly erected for added security. In Magdeburg, police officers armed with automatic weapons were guarding the entrance.

Yet others argued that living a free society was perhaps more important, and that Germans were willing to accept a certain measure of risk to preserve that openness.

“If we want to maintain the freedom of our society, we simply have to live with the risk contained in this decision,” Die Tageszeitung added in its editorial.

France Increases Security At Christmas Markets After Berlin Truck Attack: 9 Murdered

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

France increases security at Christmas markets after Berlin truck incident

France will increase security at Christmas markets across the country after a truck plowed into people at a seasonal market in Berlin on Monday, killing at least nine people, the Interior Ministry said.

“Franco-German cooperation will continue with no respite so that democracies win the war against those who want to strike at our values and freedoms,” the ministry said in a statement.

“All security forces will keep to a maximum level of vigilance. Security at Christmas markets will be reinforced with immediate effect.”

(Reporting by John Irish, editing by G Crosse)

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