The two Italian police officers who shot and killed a gunman outside a closed train station early Friday did not realize initially that he was the suspect in the Berlin truck attack, which killed 12 and injured dozens, Milan police said.
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Anis Amri, a 24-year-old Tunisian, was near a train station in the Sesto San Giovanni area about 3 a.m. when he was approached by two officers, police said.
"He was a man from northern Africa, like there are many in the Milan area, and ours was a routine check that was carried out by two young and good police officers,” Antonio de Iesu, the head of Milan police, said in a press conference today.
When a police officer spoke to Amri, who was standing alone, he answered in Italian that he came from Reggio Calabria, located at the tip of Italy's southwest coast. The officer noted Amri's foreign accent when he spoke, an official at the Milan police headquarters told ABC News.
The policeman asked Amri to empty his backpack and pockets, which is standard procedure, said Roberto Guida, Head of Sesto San Giovanni police. Amri was calm as he started emptying his pockets and backpack, but he suddenly pulled out a weapon that had already been loaded and fired once at the chief patrol officer, who was closest to him, Guida said.
After he fired the initial shot, Amri tried to hide behind a car and shoot the officers again, Guida said. Another officer then walked around the car and shot and killed Amri. When he was confronted by the officer, Amri allegedly said "policemen are bastards," according to Guida.
The wounded police officer was taken to a local hospital where he is recovering, according to the interior minister.
Amri had a train ticket on him when he was shot from Chambray, France to Turin, Italy. He did not have a cellphone or keys or any other personal effects, but he did have cash and a gun, the official said.
Italian authorities confirmed the man killed was Amri using fingerprints provided by German authorities, German Federal Prosecutor Peter Frank said.
In a video posted on social media that appears to have been recorded prior to the attack in Berlin, Amri pledges allegiance to ISIS and says he is avenging the bombing of Muslims, urging others around the world to take up the jihad.
“My message to the crusaders who bombard Muslims every day: With God’s will, I swear we’re coming to slaughter you, you pigs,” Amri says. “I encourage all my Muslim brothers in every place to conduct jihad in the name of the religion.”
Iesu said that it was "absurd that a terrorist of this sort was found casually during a routine check but this is the reality."
"The policemen had no indication he was a killer," he added, according to the Italian news agency Ansa.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the "the general threat of terrorism continues," and said if there are "other guilty persons or helpers" in the Berlin attack, "we will bring them to justice."
Merkel said she also spoke to the president of Tunisia and told him that Germany will greatly speed up its deportations of Tunisian nationals "who have no right of abode in Germany."
Investigators meanwhile are working to determine how Amri became radicalized and were trying to determine his travels since Monday's attack, police said.
Amri passed through France before arriving by train at Milan's central railway station at around 1 a.m. Friday morning, a Milan police spokesman said.
German are trying to determine whether he had had help from a network of supporters in planning the attack and fleeing to Italy,
Amri had become the center of a Europe-wide manhunt following Monday's deadly attack on the Christmas market at Breitscheidplatz, a public square in the heart of Germany's capital.
Officials identified Amri as the likely assailant in the attack, citing evidence discovered at the crime scene including fingerprints in the cab of the truck.
The truck's driver was found dead with gunshot wounds in the back of the Polish-owned tractor-trailer used in the attack. The man is being counted among the 12 fatalities.
Ralf Jaeger, the interior minister of the German state of North Rhine–Westphalia, told reporters on Wednesday that Amri had known ties to the local radical Islamic scene and he had been deemed a threat by several security agencies.
In a recent interview with the Associated Press, Amri's mother said her son showed no signs of radicalization and she questioned whether he was really the man who launched the attack in Berlin. She said poverty drove her son to steal and travel illegally to Europe.
"I want the truth to be revealed about my son," Nour El Houda Hassani told The AP on Thursday in the central Tunisian town of Oueslatia. "If he is the perpetrator of the attack, let him assume his responsibilities and I'll renounce him before God. If he didn't do anything, I want my son's rights to be restored."
ABC News' Molly Hunter, Rym Momtaz, Phoebe Natanson, Bruno Nota, Kirit Radia, Ben Gittleson contributed to this report.