ROME • A young man who was asked for his identification papers at a routine traffic stop near Milan took out his gun from a backpack and shot the Italian policeman. He was shot dead by a second officer, a trainee policeman.
The man who was shot dead turned out to be Anis Amri, 24, the chief suspect in the deadly terrorist attack on a Christmas market in Berlin on Monday.
The 3am incident yesterday (10am Singapore time) ended a brief but intense manhunt across Europe, Italian officials announced.
The two-man patrol had stopped Amri on suspicion of being involved in burglary.
Officials said Amri pulled out a pistol and shot the officer who had asked for his papers in the shoulder. The incident happened in the suburb of Sesto San Giovanni, north of central Milan. The trainee officer, 29-year-old Luca Scata, then opened fire.
"The person who attacked our police officers was killed," Interior Minister Marco Minniti said at a news conference. "There is absolutely no doubt that the person who was killed was Anis Amri, the suspect in the terrorist attack in Berlin."
In Germany, Federal Attorney-General Peter Frank said fingerprints confirmed that Amri was the man killed.
The officer whom Amri shot, identified as Mr Cristian Movio, 35, needs to undergo surgery, but the injury did not appear to be life-threatening, according to Mr Minniti.
A video showed yesterday on Amaq, the news agency of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, had Amri pledging his allegiance to the extremist group's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The law enforcement authorities across Europe had been hunting since Wednesday for Amri, a Tunisian who had moved to Italy in 2011, and then relocated to Germany last year.
How Europe's most wanted man was able to travel seemingly freely after an attack that left at least 12 people dead will no doubt be a crucial question for investigators.
Eurosceptics have criticised Europe's open- border Schengen pact that had allowed Amri to travel freely around the continent.
Amri entered Italy from France; he had passed through Chambery, a city in south-eastern France, before making his way to Turin, Italy, and then to Milan, where he arrived by train around 1am yesterday, Milan's top anti-terrorism officer Alberto Nobili was quoted as saying by DPA, the German news agency.
Officials are now investigating whether Amri was a member of a militant network.
Amri left Tunisia, according to his relatives, with dreams of making money and buying a car. After arriving in Italy in 2011, he spent time in six jails and was a violent inmate.
In Germany, he was one of about 550 people identified as a danger to the state and placed under special surveillance.
Yet he was able to ignore deportation orders and brushes with the law, roaming freely until he was believed to have seized a truck and rammed it into a crowded market on Monday night at Breitscheidplatz, a main square in Berlin.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, WASHINGTON POST, NYTIMES