Aftermath of the Terror Attack on Breitscheid Platz Christmas Market: Germany’s Security Architecture and Parliamentary Inquiries

Sebastian von Münchow
Content Type
Working Paper
George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies
On December 19th 2016, Anis Amri, a Tunisian citizen, hijacked a truck and crashed into a Christmas market at Breitscheid Platz in Berlin. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, which resulted in twelve deaths and fifty additional casualties. Amri escaped the crime scene and travelled through Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France to Northern Italy where police officers killed him near Milan three days later. This assault was the first major terrorist event in Germany for decades. Prior to this event, the most recent attacks were the Red Army Faction plots in the 1970s, the Olympics hostage-taking in 1972, and the right-wing motivated attack on Munich’s Oktoberfest in 1980. This attack, in which a vehicle rammed into a crowded Christmas market in the center of Berlin, not only sparked a debate about Berlin’s migration policy at large, but also focused the conversation on specific questions. How could Amri be seeking asylum in Germany despite his criminal record in Italy? How did he operate inside Germany using fourteen different identities? Did he rely on a network of supporters? How did he manage to travel through half of Europe before his life ended? Some political voices called for security-related reforms aimed at improving video surveillance, data exchange, and deportation processes, while others demanded a thorough parliamentary investigation of the plot. This paper will briefly touch upon those parliamentary attempts on state and federal level to explore the plot. It will then revisit federal inquiries into matters related to the security architecture over the past twenty-seven years as well as the coverage of these inquiries in the media. Finally, this study will conclude with some thoughts about whether a federal parliamentary inquiry should have been used to investigate what happened before, during, and after the attack.
Migration, Terrorism, Violent Extremism, Islamic State
Political Geography
Europe, Germany, Italy, Berlin, Central Europe