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Berlin market attack suspect 'was investigated over fraud'


Amri was later killed in a shoot-out with Italian police (AP)

Amri was later killed in a shoot-out with Italian police (AP)

Amri was later killed in a shoot-out with Italian police (AP)

Prosecutors in western Germany have revealed they opened a fraud investigation earlier this year against Anis Amri, the main suspect in the Berlin Christmas market truck attack.

Officials suspected that he was simultaneously claiming benefits in two towns under different identities.

Detlef Nowotsch, a spokesman for prosecutors in Duisburg, said the investigation was opened in April but shelved in November because Amri's whereabouts were unknown.

Amri was accused of receiving asylum-seeker benefits in both Emmerich and Oberhausen for a few days in late 2015.

He is believed to have driven the truck that ploughed into a Christmas market in the German capital on December 19, killing 12 people. His fingerprints and wallet were found in the truck.

The Tunisian arrived in Germany in July 2015. Authorities later put him on a list of potentially violent Islamic extremists.

Amri was killed in a shoot-out with Italian police in Milan on December 23.

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German prosecutors later said they have released a Tunisian man who was detained in Berlin on Wednesday after determining that he was not in contact with Amri.

Federal prosecutors said at the time that the 40-year-old's telephone number was saved in Amri's mobile, and that they suspected he may have been involved in the attack.

Prosecutors have determined that the man "isn't this possible contact person of Anis Amri".

Italian premier Paolo Gentiloni has said there are no indications that Amri had any particular contacts in Italy.

Italian investigators are trying to determine whether Amri was tapping a jihadi network in Italy, his port of entry in early 2011 during the Arab Spring.

Mr Gentiloni told reporters: "No particular networks have emerged in Italy."

Amri died of a single gunshot wound last Friday after shooting an officer in the shoulder during a routine police stop in the working class Milan suburb of Sesto San Giovanni.

He was earlier spotted alone outside a deserted train station in the early hours.

He had crossed the border from France by train hours earlier, getting off in the Italian border town of Bardonecchia, then taking a regional train to Turin and another to Milan.

Mr Gentiloni credited good police work for ending Amri's flight, but said the government would look at further strengthening anti-terrorism measures. That would include steps "to make more efficient the repatriation mechanisms from the migrant centres", he said.

Amri told authorities after his arrival in 2011 that he was a minor, winning him the right to stay, but he quickly landed in jail after setting fire to a migrant centre.

Attempts by Italy to deport him after his release failed for bureaucratic reasons.

Mr Gentiloni noted that Amri was radicalised while he was in Italy.

"We know that in most cases, the radicalisation happens in our prisons, in our neighbourhoods," Mr Gentiloni said.

Italy's top anti-terrorism prosecutor, Franco Roberti, told La Repubblica that Amri "found the convictions of his radicalisation path" in prison, "in desperation, isolation and marginalisation".

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