Tuesday 28 January 2020

Islamic State 'ordered Italian resident to attack Rome'

Prosecutors said an Islamic State fighter ordered a Moroccan-born man living in Italy to carry out attacks in Rome
Prosecutors said an Islamic State fighter ordered a Moroccan-born man living in Italy to carry out attacks in Rome

Italian police have arrested four people in a foreign fighter investigation, including a Moroccan-born man living in Italy who had received Islamic State orders to attack Rome, prosecutors said.

Milan prosecutor Maurizio Romanelli said investigators intercepted the communication from within Islamic State territory ordering attacks in Italy "with particular attention to the city of Rome" and focusing on the Holy Year pilgrimage currently under way.

There was no indication any attacks were imminent and Mr Romanelli said authorities acted quickly to close the investigation, arresting four people and issuing arrest warrants for two others believed to be in IS territory.

He said: "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."

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

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

Another Moroccan man who was planning to travel with them, identified as Abderrahmane Khachia, 23, was arrested in the northern city of Varese, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors also issued arrest warrants for an Italian-Moroccan couple who left to join IS last year with three small children.

Mr Romanelli said that man, identified as Mohamed Koraichi, had become an IS fighter and had communicated the orders to carry out attacks in Italy while making arrangements for the other family to join IS.

The fourth arrest was of Koraichi's sister, prosecutors said.

Mr Romanelli said the messages promoting lone-wolf attacks were "very strong, very serious and very efficient".

They indicated that IS'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", he added.

Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said "there was a serious intention to hit Italy", and while the suspects were not yet involved in the material preparations for an attack, "there was a decision, an accentuated willingness, to proceed".

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi praised the anti-extremist operation as "very important".

PA Media

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