‘Jihadist’ imam who preached in Italy arrested

An imam who has preached in several Italian cities was arrested in Bosnia on Friday morning accused of recruiting combatants to fight for Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (Isis), Italian media has reported.

'Jihadist' imam who preached in Italy arrested
Over the past few years, Bilal Bosnic reportedly preached at mosques in Cremona, Motta Baluffi, Bergamo and other Italian cities.

Bilal Bosnic and 15 others were arrested on Friday morning by Serbian police in Bosnia, as part of an operation conducted collaboration with police from Cremona and Bergamo, Il Fatto Quotidiano reported.

Police also found a large quantity of weapons in various Bosnian cities during the investigation.

Bosnic is accused of recruiting combatants to Syria and Iraq to fight for Isis.

Over the past few years, Bosnic reportedly preached at mosques in northern Italy including those in Cremona, Motta Baluffi, Bergamo.

In August, The Local reported that five people in the northern Italian region of Veneto were being investigated for alleged links to jihadist militant groups.

The five residents were suspected of being close to jihadist groups, with some thought to have recruited fighters for Iraq and Syria. 

And earlier that month it was reported that around 50 Italians had been recruited by Isis, the majority from non-immigrant families.

The latest arrest in Italy comes as the US announces plans to form a “core coalition” to fight Isis militants in Iraq.

Italy was invited to join as well as Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, Turkey, Denmark and Poland.

"We need to attack them in ways that prevent them from taking over territory, to bolster the Iraqi security forces and others in the region who are prepared to take them on, without committing troops of our own," US Secretary of State John Kerry said at a Nato summit in Wales on Friday, according to Reuters.

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G7, tech giants agree on plan to block jihadist content online at Italy meeting

G7 countries and tech giants including Google, Facebook and Twitter on Friday agreed to work together to block the dissemination of Islamist extremism over the internet.

G7, tech giants agree on plan to block jihadist content online at Italy meeting
Photo: AFP

“These are the first steps towards a great alliance in the name of freedom,” Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti said after a two-day meeting with his Group of Seven counterparts, stressing the role of the internet in extremist “recruitment, training and radicalisation.”

French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said the goal was to ensure pro-jihadist content “is taken down within two hours of it going online”.

“Our enemies are moving at the speed of a tweet and we need to counter them just as quickly,” acting US Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke said.

While acknowledging progress had been made, Britain's Home Secretary Amber Rudd insisted “companies need to go further and faster to not only take down extremist content but also stop it being uploaded in the first place”.

Senior executives from the internet giants and Microsoft attended the ministerial session devoted to the issue but did not offer any explanation on how they might go about clamping down on web extremists.

The meeting on the Italian island of Ischia off Naples also focused on ways to tackle one of the West's biggest security threats: jihadist fighters fleeing Syria. The European Union has promised to help close a migration route considered a potential back door for terrorists.

Tens of thousands of citizens from Western countries travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight for the Islamic State group between 2014 and 2016. Some then returned home and staged attacks that claimed dozens of lives.

Minniti warned last week that fighters planning revenge attacks following the recent collapse of the IS stronghold in Raqqa could hitch lifts back to Europe on migrant boats from Libya.

The US and Italy signed an agreement on the sidelines of the G7 meeting to share their fingerprint databases in a bid to root out potential extremists posing as asylum seekers.

The group also said international police agency Interpol — which currently holds details of nearly 40,000 foreign fighters — would play a bigger role in information sharing.

Interpol's secretary general Jürgen Stock said the agency's global databases could “act as an 'early warning system' against terrorists and crime threats and help close potential loopholes for terrorists”.

Earlier, EU President Donald Tusk promised the bloc would fork out more funds to help shut down the perilous crossing from Libya to Italy — a popular path for migrants who hope to journey on to Europe.

The EU would offer “stronger support for Italy's work with the Libyan authorities”, and there was “a real chance of closing the central Mediterranean route”, he said.

Italy has played a major role in training Libya's coastguard to stop human trafficking in its territorial waters, as well as making controversial deals with Libyan militias to stop migrants from setting off.

Minniti said the G7 ministers had discussed how to go about “de-radicalising” citizens returning from the IS frontline, to prevent them becoming security risks in jails.

READ ALSO: G7 meets in Italy as Europe braces for return of Isis recruits from Syria