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Christmas Markets In Berlin Reopen As Police Continue Manhunt

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In Berlin today, Christmas markets reopened for the first time since Monday night's terror attack on a main shopping district. The reopening comes as German authorities continue a manhunt across Europe for the prime suspect. Officials say he's a man from Tunisia who had been seeking asylum in Germany and who has ties to radical Islamists. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Berlin.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: I'm at the Christmas market near city hall here in Berlin, and the crowds are very thin tonight. Most people here seem festive and happy, but when you ask them about how they feel about the security, they don't feel very safe.

ANNE SCHWEITZER: (Speaking German).

NELSON: "Not anymore," says Berlin resident Anne Schweitzer, who was wearing a Santa hat. Her daughter Julianna in a matching hat asks me which country has security under control.

JULIANNA SCHWEITZER: (Speaking German).

NELSON: She adds, "next time it will be a plane or a train, and that's how it is. If a commuter train had blown up, people would still have to ride the train." The pair say they won't let the fact the perpetrator remains at large keep them from the market and browsing through goodies sold at the many wooden stalls. British couple Sam Brian and Jenny McDonald feel the same way.

SAM BRIAN: Me and my partner have made a decision to kind of consciously come out as a show of kind of resilience I guess.

JENNY MCDONALD: It has been a bit reassuring today 'cause we've been walking around, and we've been hearing sirens left, front and center - haven't we? - everywhere we've been going, really. So I guess that there is a presence that they are doing something.

NELSON: Many market-goers said they expected to see more police guarding them as local officials had promised, but they were happy to see concrete barriers set up along the sprawling market with its colorful Ferris wheel and ice skating rink. The German cabinet also approved plans today to increase video surveillance of such public spaces.

But Croatian vendor Mark Vedas, who sells sweatshirts and whose stall is in a vulnerable location near one of the entrances, wasn't convinced the measures would stop assailants like the man who on Monday used a tractor-trailer to mow down his victims.

MARK VEDAS: He's not alone here. There may be 10, 20, 30 more - can't stop them all.

NELSON: The German government is determined to stop at least one, however - their latest prime suspect in the Berlin massacre. Anis Amri is 24 and a Tunisian asylum seeker who was supposed to be deported last July after German intelligence agencies declared him a threat and not eligible for refugee status. Officials say his temporary German residency card was found in the cab of the tractor-trailer used in the attack.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RALF JAEGER: (Speaking German).

NELSON: Ralf Jaeger, the interior minister of one of Germany's northwestern states, says the reason Amri wasn't deported is because Tunisia repeatedly denied he was a Tunisian citizen and refused to issue him a passport.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JAEGER: (Speaking German).

NELSON: "Tunisia finally sent the papers today," the state minister said and added somewhat sarcastically, "don't ask me to comment on that." A manhunt for the suspect who officials warn is armed and dangerous is underway across Germany and other European countries. The authorities have also offered a reward of more than a hundred thousand dollars for information leading to Amri's arrest. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Berlin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.