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German regional intelligence chief dismissed over 2016 Berlin terror attack failings

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Eleven people were killed when a lorry driver rammed his vehicle through the Christmas market in Berlin on 19 December 2016.
Eleven people were killed when a lorry driver rammed his vehicle through the Christmas market in Berlin on 19 December 2016.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Michael Sohn
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A domestic intelligence chief in Germany has been dismissed over his agency's failure to pass on information about the 2016 Berlin terror attack.

Twelve people were killed and dozens more injured when an attacker fatally stabbed a truck driver and drove the vehicle into pedestrians in the city's famous Christmas market.

On Wednesday, Reinhard Müller was removed from his post as head of the State Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

The region's Interior Ministry confirmed that the former intelligence chief had been "put into temporary retirement with immediate effect".

Müller had told German lawmakers that his agency did not immediately pass on information to investigators about possible supporters of the Islamist attacker.

An informant had told authorities in 2017 that the suspect had fled the capital after the attack with the help of a Berlin crime family.

The information was only relayed to investigators two years later after the informant's handler reached out directly to federal authorities in Germany.

The perpetrator of the attack, which was later claimed by the Islamic State group, was killed in a shootout with Italian police four days later.

Officials have criticised German security agencies for their role in the investigation, arguing that police might have missed an opportunity to arrest the attacker months earlier.

Jens B'ttner/dpa via AP
German media reported that Reinhard Müller had left his post on Wednesday.Jens B'ttner/dpa via AP

The region's Interior Minister, Torsten Renz, said in a statement that the change in personnel was "necessary".

"The protection of our free and democratic basic order from enemies of the constitution is my top priority," said Renz.

A high-profile commission is set to further investigate structures and procedures in the intelligence service, she added.

"For me, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is an essential pillar in the security architecture of our state," Renz stated.