Tuesday 25 April 2017

Trio held in Venice 'planned to bomb Rialto Bridge and praised London attack'

The Rialto Bridge in Venice is a big draw for tourists
The Rialto Bridge in Venice is a big draw for tourists
Italian police have made several arrests in recent years of suspected Islamic extremists

Italian police said they have arrested three Kosovars in Venice after one was caught on a phone intercept proposing they bomb the Rialto Bridge while others lauded the recent attack in London.

Venice prosecutor Adelchi d'Ippolito said a search of an apartment in the city showed the suspects were getting in physical shape and watching videos of Islamic extremists on how to carry out knife attacks.

He said a phone intercept caught one saying: "You'll go straight to paradise because of all the infidels in Venice. Put a bomb on the Rialto."

It was not clear if the reference was bluster or indicated an imminent threat.

A minor was also detained.

The 16th-century Rialto arched bridge is one of Venice's main tourist draws, spanning the Grand Canal and featuring small shops on either side of its steps.

Authorities said the suspects - identified as Fisnik Bekaj, Dake Haziraj and Arjan Babaj - spoke among themselves about being ready to die for the jihadist cause and becoming particularly inspired after the recent attack in London.

On March 22, Khalid Masood mowed down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing three, and then fatally stabbed a policeman near Parliament.

Mr D'Ippolito said the suspects were "truly dangerous" and were suspected of plotting attacks both in Italy and overseas.

But he added that they would not have been able to carry out any attack in Italy since they were under such tight surveillance.

Italian police have made several arrests in recent years of suspected Islamic extremists, on allegations they were recruiting fighters for jihad in Syria and Iraq, were radicalising others or were plotting attacks domestically.

Venice mayor Luigi Brugnaro said all those detained in the early morning sweep on Thursday had regular residency permits to live in Italy.

He said in addition to the detentions, police searched 12 sites in Venice's centre, Mestre and nearby Treviso.

AP

Press Association

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