Saturday 21 July 2018

Isil suspects held over 'lone-wolf' plot for terrorist attack on Rome

Men identified by Italian police as suspects Abderrahim Moutaharrik (right) and Khachia Abderrahmane
Men identified by Italian police as suspects Abderrahim Moutaharrik (right) and Khachia Abderrahmane

Colleen Barry in Milan

Italian police have arrested four terror suspects, including a Moroccan-born man living in Italy who had received Isil orders to carry out attacks on Rome during Holy Year, prosecutors said yesterday.

Milan prosecutor Maurizio Romanelli told reporters that investigators intercepted communications from within Isil-held territory ordering attacks in Italy, "with particular attention to the city of Rome" and focusing on the Holy Year pilgrimage, now under way.

He said the messages promoting lone-wolf attacks were "very strong, very serious and very efficient," indicating that Isil's current policy is to push for attacks in locations where foreign fighters are residing "as the best way of creating terror within Western countries".

Interior Minister Angelino Alfano told Sky TG24 "there was a serious intention to hit Italy," and while the suspects weren't yet involved in the material preparations for an attack, "there was a decision, an accentuated willingness, to proceed".

Mr Romanelli said authorities acted quickly to close the investigation, arresting four people in the northern Lombardy region and issuing arrest warrants for two others believed to be in Isil-held territory.

"This is a new profile, because it was not a generic indication, but an indication given to a specific person who was invited to act within the territory of the Italian state," Mr Romanelli said.

He said the death in battle late last year of a foreign fighter with ties to the group within Isil-held territory had contributed to the radicalisation process. The fighter had been expelled from both Italy in 2015 and later from Switzerland before traveling to Isil territory, where he was killed.

Italian Premier Matteo Renzi praised the anti-extremists operation as "very important."

Authorities arrested the Moroccan-born man, identified as Abderrahim Moutahrrick, and his wife, Salma Bencharki, who allegedly were planning on travelling from their home in Lecco, north of Milan, to Isil-held territory with their children, aged two and four.

Mr Romanelli said Mr Moutahrrick had taken Italian citizenship and was an accomplished kick-boxer.

Another Moroccan man who was planning to travel with them, identified as Khachia Abderrahmane (23), was arrested in the northern city of Varese, prosecutors said. It was the death of his elder brother that prosecutors identified as the radicalising event.

Prosecutors also issued arrest warrants for an Italian-Moroccan couple who left to join Isil last year with three small children. Mr Romanelli said that man, identified as Mohamed Koraichi, had become an Isil fighter and had communicated the orders to carry out attacks in Italy while making arrangements for the other family to join Isil. The fourth arrest was of Mr Koraichi's sister, prosecutors said.

Irish Independent

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