Two days after the terrorist attack on a German Christmas market in Berlin, which killed 12 people, the German police have issued an arrest warrant for a Tunisian national, Anis Amri, who is known to have Jihadi connections and to have used multiple identities, and who is being described as armed and dangerous.
It seems that Anis Amri arrived in Germany as a refugee but his application for political asylum in Germany was refused in July. The Tunisian authorities however refused to let the German authorities deport him to Tunisia, denying that he was one of their nationals. The result is that he seems to have been free to move around Germany, and that the German authorities have lost sight of him.
It should be said that the German authorities have not yet positively identified Anis Amri as the perpetrator of the Berlin attack. It is clear however that he is for the moment the principal suspect.
This is premature and probably wrong. Even before the refugee flood into Germany began in 2015 Germany already had a large Muslim population. With ISIS and Al-Qaeda targeting European capitals it was probably only a matter of time before Berlin became the target of a terrorist attack, and this would almost certainly have happened sooner or later regardless of whether Merkel had allowed the refugees to pour into Germany and Europe last year or not.
To be clear, this is not a defence of Merkel’s refugee policy, which she imposed on Germany and Europe without consultation in the most arbitrary and whimsical way. On the contrary Merkel’s refugee policy has been in almost every respect a disaster, drawing crowds of refugees to Europe whom it would have been more appropriate and more humane to return to their own countries following a settlement of the wars there, and creating social and inter-ethnic tensions in Germany and political divisions in Europe where none had existed previously.
The policy has also been for Merkel personally politically disastrous, leading to her judgement in Germany being questioned as never before. If she is now being unfairly and wrongly blamed for the Berlin terrorist outrage, her reckless imposition of her ill-thought-out refugee policy means that in purely political terms she has brought it on herself.
Where it might however be more appropriate to blame Merkel and the German authorities is for their failure to prepare properly for a terrorist outrage events in the world should have told them was coming. It seems that no special precautions were taken in advance of the Christmas season, and though one should reserve final judgement, there is a sense that the police reaction has been slow and confused, allowing the perpetrator to escape, so that even now his identity has not been conclusive confirmed.
That Merkel and the German authorities should have been caught unprepared in this way despite the tensions created by refugee flood, the rise of ISIS and Al-Qaeda, the wars in the Middle East, and the recent terrorist outrages elsewhere in Europe – especially in France – suggests a dangerous complacency and a wilful refusal to acknowledge the existence of a problem.
It is difficult to avoid the impression that with Merkel on the defensive and struggling to justify her refugee policy to an increasingly anxious and skeptical German electorate, the German authorities lowered their guard, unwilling to take basic precautions which might have been construed as justifying the criticisms of the refugee policy made by the AfD.
None of this however should draw attention away from those who bear ultimate responsibility for the Berlin atrocity.
ISIS has claimed responsibility, with its Amaq News Agency referring to the perpetrator as a “soldier of the Islamic State”.
Regardless of whether or not this individual actually is a member of ISIS, there is no doubt that it is the murderous terrorist ideology of ISIS and of Al-Qaeda which inspired the person who carried out the atrocity.
Where older terrorist movements at least went through the motions of sparing civilian “soft” targets, ISIS and Al-Qaeda glory in attacking them.
It is this psychopathic revelry in indiscriminate violence which has lifted the terrorism of ISIS and Al-Qaeda to a new level.
It is what makes these groups so dangerous, and what makes it so wrong for certain governments – both Western and Arab – to try to manipulate them so as to achieve their geopolitical objectives.