An onboard computer of the heavy cargo truck hijacked by Anis Amri apparently hit the automatic brakes, preventing the Tunisian suspect from killing more people at the Christmas market in Berlin, according to German media.
The death toll in the market attack – which claimed 12 lives – could have been even higher if the trailer had not been equipped with automatic brakes, an electronic system that alerts the driver and then takes evasive action in case of an imminent collision, reports Der Spiegel.
According to an investigation by newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung and broadcasters NDR and WDR, the Scania R450 heavy truck came to a halt after just 70 or 80 meters (250ft) as the computeractivated the brakes to prevent a collision.
Under the 2012 EU regulations, an emergency braking system is a mandatory feature to be installed on all newly-manufactured trucks whose weight exceeds 3,500kg. The system helps “detect the possibility of a collision with a preceding vehicle, warn the driver … and, if the driver takes no action, automatically apply the vehicle’s brakes.”
“This technology has saved lives,” a government source told Sueddeutsche Zeitung. During a similar attack this summer, a terrorist killed over 80 people, deliberately driving a 19-ton Renault Midlum truck into crowds in the French city of Nice.
Previous media reports alleged that it was Lukasz Urban, the Polish truck driver, who tried to prevent the terrorist attack and fought Anis Amri in the cabin despite heavy injuries. However, investigators said Urban was shot dead by the Tunisian suspect well before the attack.
As the investigation goes on, new details of the terrorist attack come into the spotlight. According to a Spiegel report, Amri was active in social media just a few minutes before he rammed the truck into the Christmas market.
“My brother, everything’s alright,” he reportedly wrote to one of his contacts via Telegram messenger. “Thank God, I’m in the car now, do you understand me? Pray for me, brother, pray for me.”
Meanwhile, revelations that the security services had monitored Amri for months and were aware of his radical views are fueling anger in Germany. The Tunisian national had a remarkable criminal record, links to Islamist circles and even researched ways of assembling an improvised explosive device.
At least twice – in Italy and Germany – he was subject to deportation, but was allowed to stay in the EU due to bureaucratic hurdles. Moreover, even after the attack he evaded the hot pursuit and managed to travel to Italy via the Netherlands and France, according to the latest statements issued by the respective police agencies.
In Germany, the investigation is far from over. On Wednesday, a 40-year-old Tunisian, said to have been in touch with Amri, was detained during a police raid at the man’s flat and workplace. The suspect’s connections to terrorist groups are also subject to investigation as he allegedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).