Europe on Christmas high alert after truck attack in Berlin

Europe on Christmas high alert after truck attack in Berlin
# 24 December 2016 19:33 (UTC +04:00)

Security was heightened for the Christmas weekend in Italy and at the Vatican on Saturday after Italian police killed the man believed to be responsible for the Berlin market truck attack while other European cities kept forces on high alert, APA reports quoting Reuters.

In France, Britain and Germany, which have all been targets of Islamist militant attacks, police increased their presence at tourist spots in major cities and other densely populated areas.

Anis Amri, a 24-year-old Tunisian suspected of carrying out the truck attack which killed 12 people, was shot dead in a town near Milan early on Friday after he pulled a gun on police during a routine check.

He had traveled undetected to Italy from Germany via France, taking advantage of Europe's open-border Schengen pact.

As investigators sought to determine if Amri had accomplices in Italy, and associates were being arrested in his home country of Tunisia, national security officials in Italy beefed up security at sensitive spots.

Rome authorities banned vans or trucks from entering the city center and anti-terror police wearing masks and wielding machine guns set up roadblocks on routes leading to famous tourist sites or areas where crowds traditionally gather.

At the Vatican, where Pope Francis was due to celebrate Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's basilica on Saturday evening, police cars and military jeeps stood about every 100 meters (yards) along streets leading to the Vatican.

Security was also stepped up in central Milan and other Italian cities, particularly near major churches where the faithful were attending Christmas services.

In France, where Islamist militants killed 130 people in shooting and bomb attacks in Paris in November 2015, authorities said more than 91,000 policemen and soldiers would be deployed, with additional security measures being enforced at churches.

Emergency rule has been in place since the Paris attacks, and French soldiers patrol the capital's streets. Police have been given wider search and arrest powers to target suspects considered a threat to security.

In Germany, federal police reinforced armed patrols at airports and rail stations, officials said. They have also reintroduced spot checks on people coming into Germany along a 30-km (19 miles) corridor inside the international frontiers.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has said the danger of an attack in Germany remains high despite the death of the suspected attacker.

More than 100 investigators would be working through the holidays searching for any accomplices or support network for Amri. "The level of threat remains high," he told reporters late on Friday.

Britain is on its second-highest threat level, meaning an attack by militants is considered highly likely.

Police there have increased security at a number of popular tourist attractions, including around Queen Elizabeth's London residence, Buckingham Palace. Armed officers patrol major shopping centers, Christmas markets and places of worship.

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