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Berlin attack: Fingerprints link manhunt suspect to truck

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BERLIN, GERMANY - DECEMBER 22: Visitors walk past a makeshift memorial at the reopened Breitscheidplatz Christmas market only a short distance from where three days ago a truck plowed into the market, killed 12 people and injured dozens in a terrorist attack on December 22, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. The Breidscheidplatz Christmas market is reopening today, though its small amusement rides and bright lights displays will remain shut off in a sign of continuing mourning for the attack victims. Meanwhile police have launched a European-wide manhunt for Anis Amri, a 24-year-old Tunisian man they suspect of having driven the truck. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

It’s looking increasingly likely that the main suspect in the Berlin Christmas market attack, Anis Amri, was the attacker, Germany’s interior minister said Thursday.

His fingerprints were found in the cabin of the truck that plowed into the market Monday, leaving 12 people dead and 48 injured, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told a news conference.

“There are additional indications which support this,” he said. “This is why it’s so important that the manhunt is successful.”

A massive search is underway for Amri, 24, who is considered violent and believed to be armed.

German and international security services are doing everything possible to find him quickly, de Maiziere said.

German police carried out raids in cities across the country Thursday, including at a refugee shelter in Emmerich, in North Rhine-Westphalia, where Amri is believed to have stayed.

According to German investigative files obtained by CNN on Thursday, Amri had ties to an ISIS recruitment network in Germany and had previously discussed launching an attack there.

Speaking alongside de Maiziere, German Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted that Germany has “known for a long time … that we are a target for Islamist terrorists.”

German authorities are working at full speed to find the suspect, she said, alongside other countries that “are very much familiar with the challenges of terrorist attacks.”

Merkel also had words of support for the victims and their families. “I am confident that during this test we are going through, we will persevere,” she added.

The Breitscheidplatz Christmas market reopened Thursday after police said they had completed their investigation at the attack scene. Candles and flowers have been left at makeshift shrines remembering the victims.

Police raids
A European arrest warrant was issued Wednesday for Amri, and German authorities offered a reward of up to 100,000 euros (about $104,000) for information on his whereabouts.

Amri is thought to have been in Germany since July 2015, having traveled there from Italy, where he’d served time in prison for arson at a refugee center in Lampedusa.

While in Germany, authorities had their eye on Amri — he was believed to be in touch with radical Islamists, including a recruitment network for ISIS operating in Germany, German security officials told CNN.

The main figure in the network, Ahmad Abdulaziz Abdullah — a 32-year-old Iraqi national also known as Abu Walaa — and four others were arrested and charged with terrorism offenses in November.

Ralf Jaeger, interior minister of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, said Wednesday that he could not confirm a link to Abu Walaa.

But according to the investigative files obtained by CNN, German authorities were aware that Amri had close ties to the Abu Walaa network.

Amri was particularly close to one of those charged in November, Boban Simeonovic, a German intelligence official told CNN.

Amri is mentioned several times by name in the 345-page investigative file, which underpinned the case built by prosecutors.

“Anis spoke several times about committing attacks,” a police informant told German investigators, according to the files. The informant said Simeonovic and another member of the network “were in favor of that and gave him a place to hide.”

Members of the Abu Walaa network also discussed driving a truck full of gasoline with a bomb into a crowd, the police informant told investigators, according to the documents.

Pressure on Merkel
The emerging details may increase the political pressure on Merkel over her government’s generous acceptance of refugees.

Germany took in more than 890,000 asylum seekers last year, a much higher number than other European nations.

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The issue contributed to defeats for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union in Berlin and her home state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern during regional elections this year.