After receiving information from a former jihadist, Italian police have arrested 15 suspects alleged to be part of an organisation that helped smuggle radical Islamic terrorists into the country as illegal migrants and asylum seekers.
The arrests were made in the cities of Palermo, Trapani, Caltanissetta, and Brescia this week with the 15 suspects facing various criminal charges from forming a criminal association for the purposes of illegal immigration and smuggling to terrorism-related charges, newspaper Il Giornale reports.
The former jihadi blew the lid on the Islamist fighter-smuggling operation, saying to the police: “I’m telling you what I know because I want to prevent you from finding an army of kamikaze in Italy.”
One of the suspects was of particular interest to the police after they found that he had posted pro-Islamic State propaganda on Facebook and had called on others to martyr themselves in the name of Allah.
The Palermo anti-mafia prosecutor said the individual had also been a member of a Facebook group that put him in contact with other known radical Islamic extremists.
Prosecutors added that the organisation, which largely smuggled jihadists from Tunisia, “constitutes a current and concrete threat to national security because it is able to provide several illegal immigrants with a hidden, safe, and fast maritime passage.”
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They added that the organisation was “particularly attractive” to those who were being sought by Tunisian police and security forces including those who could be linked to terrorism.
The arrests come after Tunisian authorities seized a boat of illegal immigrants heading for Italy last August that was revealed to have been more than half-full with radical Islamists, with nine of the 15 people on board linked to terror.
The seizure followed an Interpol warning in February of last year that claimed up to 50 Tunisian Islamic radicals had made the voyage to Italy as illegal migrants.