Berlin Christmas market attacker identified as Tunisian asylum-seeker Anis Amri

German police are looking for an asylum-seeker from Tunisia after finding an identity document under the driver's seat of a truck that plowed into a Berlin Christmas market and killed 12 people, officials and security sources said on Wednesday.

The Tunisian man suspected in the Berlin Christmas market attack left Tunisia seven years ago as an illegal immigrant and spent time in prison in Italy, his father and security sources told Tunisia's Radio Mosaique on Wednesday.

The radio reported on its website that security sources had named the suspect as Anis Amri from Oueslatia in rural central Tunisia. He served four years in jail in Italy on accusations of burning a school, it said. The father told the radio station that his son left for Germany a year ago.

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Fire fighters stand beside a fire engine near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski
Police and emergency workers are at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
BERLIN, GERMANY - DECEMBER 19: Police take security measures after a truck plough into a crowd at a Christmas market site in Berlin, Germany on December 19, 2016. Several injuries reported. (Photo by Cuneyt Karadag/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - DECEMBER 19: Police take security measures after a truck plough into a crowd at a Christmas market site in Berlin, Germany on December 19, 2016. Several injuries reported. (Photo by Cuneyt Karadag/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A truck is seen near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Police stand near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski
Police work near the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
Police stand outside a tent near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski
Police stand near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski
A truck is surrounded by rescue vans at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
Police blocks a road leading to a scene next to the Gedächniskirche church where a truck crashed into a christmas market in Berlin, on December 19, 2016 killing at least nine people and injuring at least 50 people. / AFP / Odd ANDERSEN (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Police blocks a road leading to a scene where a truck speeded into a christmas market in Berlin, on December 19, 2016 killing at least one person and injuring at least 50 people. / AFP / John MACDOUGALL (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)
A firefighter walks in front of a truck at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
A policeman stands near the scene where a truck speeded into a christmas market in Berlin, on December 19, 2016 killing nine persons and injuring at least 50 people. / AFP / John MACDOUGALL (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)
Police secures the area at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
A truck is seen near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Paramedics work at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
BREAKING: Truck crashes into crowds at Christmas Market in Berlin, reports of multiple victims
Lorry just ploughed through Christmas market in #berlin. There is no road nearby. People crushed. I am safe. I am s… https://t.co/CrBPLdHc0W
Truck drives into a crowded Christmas Market in #Germany's #Berlin. Many people injured. Many unconscious on the ground. Reports of a shot.
Breaking news - reports from Berlin say truck rams through a crowded Christmas market - unconfirmed casualties
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The man had been considered a potential threat by security authorities since November. After being turned down for asylum, he should have been deported but could not be returned to Tunisia because his documents were missing, added Jaeger.

The new details added to a growing list of questions about whether security authorities missed opportunities to prevent the attack, in which a 25-tonne truck mowed down a crowd of shoppers and smashed through wooden huts selling gifts, mulled wine and sausages. It was the deadliest attack on German soil since 1980.

Christmas markets have been a known potential target for Islamist militants since at least 2000, when authorities thwarted a plot to attack one in Strasbourg, France. And the modus operandi in Berlin was identical to that of a Bastille Day attack in the French city of Nice in July, when a Tunisian-born man rammed a lorry through a seaside crowd and killed 86 people.

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Vigils around the world for the Nice attack victims
Members of the Australian French community place candles during a vigil in central Sydney, Australia, July 15, 2016 to remember the victims of the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice. REUTERS/David Gray
Members of the Australian French community place candles during a vigil in central Sydney, Australia, July 15, 2016, to remember the victims of the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice. REUTERS/David Gray
Members of the Australian French community place candles during a vigil in central Sydney, Australia, July 15, 2016 to remember the victims of the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice. REUTERS/David Gray
School children offer prayers to pay tribute to the victims of the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice, at a school in Ahmedabad, India, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Amit Dave
Members of the Australian French community cry as they sing the French national anthem during a vigil in central Sydney, Australia, July 15, 2016 to remember the victims of the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice. REUTERS/David Gray
BANGKOK, THAILAND - JULY 15: French ambassador to Thailand Gilles Garachonk (4th R) joins a vigil to remember the victims of the attack in the French city of Nice at the Alliance Francaise, on July 15, in Bangkok, Thailand. A French-Tunisian attacker killed 84 people as he drove a lorry through crowds, gathered to watch a firework display during Bastille Day celebrations. The attacker then opened fire on people in the crowd before being shot dead by police. (Photo by Dario Pignatelli/Getty Images)
Indian citizens take part in a candle light vigil for the victims of the Mumbai attacks in New Delhi on December 7, 2008.India accuses the banned Islamist movement Laskhar-e-Taiba of training and equipping the 10 militants who stormed India's financial capital by boat to kill 188 people and leaving more than 300 others injured during the 60-hour orgy of violence that saw two luxury hotels and a number of other sites targeted. AFP PHOTO/ Manpreet ROMANA (Photo credit should read MANPREET ROMANA/AFP/Getty Images)
In the courtyard of the apt. building where killer, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, lived, (LÂR) Kolleen Alldridge, hugs her son, Gavyn Alldridge, 4, while apartment complex manager, Alice Thompson, huddles close to her friend during a candle light vigil where neighbors are trying to come to terms with the shooting, in Killeen, Texas November 07, 09. THe neighbors all said what a nice person Mr Hasan was. (Photo by Barbara Davidson/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
A boy lays a candles to form a heart around a bag reading 'Nice Olympic Swimming' during a candlelight vigil for swimming gold medallist Camille Muffat on March 10, 2015 her hometown, the southeastern French city of Nice, after she died along with nine other people in a helicopter crash in Argentina while filming a reality TV show. France was plunged into mourning on March 10 after three well-known sports stars, including the Olympic champion swimmer and one of the world's best sailors, died when two helicopters filming the survival series 'Dropped' smashed into each other in the rugged mountains of La Rioja province, local officials said. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHE (Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) and US Secretary of State John Kerry lay flowers outside the French Embassy in Moscow on July 15, 2016 in tribute to the victims of the deadly attack in the French Riviera city of Nice. Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the attack in Nice as an act of 'monstrous evil' in a message to his French counterpart. A gunman smashed a truck into a crowd of revellers celebrating Bastille Day in the French Riviera city of Nice, killing at least 84 people in what President Francois Hollande called a 'terrorist' attack. / AFP / Vasily MAXIMOV (Photo credit should read VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images)
People lay flowers outside the French embassy in Moscow on July 15, 2016 in tribute to the victims of the deadly attack in the French Riviera city of Nice. Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 15 condemned the attack in Nice as an act of 'monstrous evil' in a message to his French counterpart. A gunman smashed a truck into a crowd of revellers celebrating Bastille Day in the French Riviera city of Nice, killing at least 84 people in what President Francois Hollande called a 'terrorist' attack. / AFP / VASILY MAXIMOV (Photo credit should read VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images)
A man lays flowers in front of the French embassy in Kiev French the day after a gunman smashed a truck into a crowd of revellers celebrating Bastille Day, killing at least 84 people on July 15, 2016. A Tunisian-born man zigzagged a truck through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the French city of Nice, killing at least 84 and injuring dozens of children in what President Francois Hollande on July 15 called a 'terrorist' attack. / AFP / SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
NICE, FRANCE - JULY 15: People visit the scene and lay tributes to the victims of a terror attack on the Promenade des Anglais on July 15, 2016 in Nice, France. A French-Tunisian attacker killed 84 people as he drove a lorry through crowds, gathered to watch a firework display during Bastille Day celebrations. The attacker then opened fire on people in the crowd before being shot dead by police.(Photo by Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images)
NICE, FRANCE - JULY 15: People visit the scene and lay tributes to the victims of a terror attack on the Promenade des Anglais on July 15, 2016 in Nice, France. A French-Tunisian attacker killed 84 people as he drove a lorry through crowds, gathered to watch a firework display during Bastille Day celebrations. The attacker then opened fire on people in the crowd before being shot dead by police.(Photo by Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images)
A sand sculpture about the France truck attack looks at the Bay of Bengal Sea's eastern coast beach at Puri, creating by sand artist Sudarshan Pattnaik to condemn this terror attack near by 65 km away from the eastern Indian city Bhubaneswar, India, on 15 July 2016. (Photo by Biswaranjan Rout/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A man places flowers in front of the French Embassy in Berlin on July 15, 2016, after the deadly attacks in Nice. A man drove a truck into a crowd watching fireworks in the French Riviera city of Nice, killing at least 84 people. / AFP / John MACDOUGALL (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JULY 15, 2016: Flowers outside the French Embassy in Moscow commemorating victims of the 2016 terror attack in the French resort city of Nice. On 14 July 2016, a truck ploughed into a crowd of people celebrating Bastille Day on the Promenade des Anglais. 84 people were killed in the attack. Sergei Savostyanov/TASS (Photo by Sergei Savostyanov\TASS via Getty Images)
A girl holds up a placard during a prayer meet to show solidarity with the victims of the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice, at a school in Ahmedabad, India, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Amit Dave
A man reacts near bouquets of flowers as people pay tribute near the scene where a truck ran into a crowd at high speed killing scores and injuring more who were celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday, in Nice, France, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
School children offer prayers to pay tribute to the victims of the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice, at a school in Ahmedabad, India, July 15, 2016. The placard reads, "Tribute to the people killed in the terror attack in France". REUTERS/Amit Dave TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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Security sources said the ID found by the Berlin investigators was in the name of Anis A., born in the southern Tunisian city of Tataouine in 1992. By convention, suspects in Germany are identified by the first name and initial.

A spokesperson for Tunisia's foreign ministry said it was trying to verify that information.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said a Europe-wide manhunt for the suspect had been underway since midnight.

The Rheinische Post newspaper said police had begun searching a shelter for migrants in western Germany where the man was believed to have lived.

SYMBOLIC TARGET

The pre-Christmas carnage at a symbolic Berlin site - under the ruined spire of a church bombed in World War Two - has shocked Germans and prompted security reviews across Europe, already on high alert after attacks this year in Belgium and France.

The possible - though unproven - involvement of a migrant or refugee has revived a bitter debate about security and immigration, with Chancellor Angela Merkel facing calls to clamp down after allowing more than a million newcomers into Germany in the past two years.

Merkel, who will run for a fourth term next year, has said it would be particularly repugnant if a refugee seeking protection in Germany was the perpetrator.

Police initially arrested a Pakistani asylum-seeker near the scene, but released him without charge on Tuesday. Authorities have warned that the attacker is on the run and may be armed. It is not clear if the perpetrator was acting alone or with others.

The Polish driver of the hijacked truck was found shot dead in the cabin of the vehicle. Bild newspaper reported that he was alive until the attack took place.

It quoted an investigator as saying there must have been a struggle with the attacker, who may have been injured.

ISLAMIC STATE CLAIM

Islamic State has claimed responsibility, as it did for the Nice attack.

The Passauer Neue Presse newspaper quoted the head of the group of interior ministers from Germany's 16 federal states, Klaus Bouillon, as saying tougher security measures were needed.

"We want to raise the police presence and strengthen the protection of Christmas markets. We will have more patrols. Officers will have machine guns. We want to make access to markets more difficult, with vehicles parked across them," Bouillon told the paper.

Some politicians have blamed Merkel's open-door migrant policy for making such attacks more likely. The anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has gained support in the last two years as the chancellor's popularity has waned, said on Tuesday that Germany is no longer safe.

Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann told German radio there was a higher risk of Islamist attacks because of the influx of migrants in the past two years, many of whom have fled conflicts in countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The task of tracking the suspects and the movements of the truck may be complicated by the relative scarcity of security cameras in public places in Germany, compared with similar countries such as Britain.

The German cabinet on Wednesday approved a draft law to broaden video surveillance in public and commercial areas, a move agreed by political parties last month after a spate of violent attacks and sexual assaults on women.

State surveillance is a sensitive issue in Germany because of extensive snooping by the Stasi secret police in Communist East Germany and by the Gestapo in the Nazi era.

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