Italian police swoop on foreign fighter suspect

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A Kurdish marksman who fought against Islamic militant group Isis in Kobane, Syria. Photo: Bulent Kilic/AFP
11:43 CEST+02:00
Police have detained a Tunisian man suspected of wanting to fight alongside Islamic militants, a would-be foreign fighter who claimed he was thrown out of a Milan mosque.

He was detained by police after a lengthy surveillance operation which started in February, Tgcom24 reported. He is not known to have been formally arrested or charged with a crime.

A resident of Ravenna, central Italy, the man was initially arrested on February 18th, allegedly in possession of three grams of heroin. A subsequent investigation reportedly showed that he wanted to travel via Germany to the Middle East, joining extremist groups as a foreign fighter.

In wiretapped conversations he can allegedly be heard speaking about the rewards of jihad. “Don’t worry, jihad will repay you. Whoever leaves something for Allah, Allah will repay him,” he was quoted as saying.

In one alleged conversation with a man claiming to be a Palestinian refugee in Syria, he says: “I’m coming, if God wants it I will do jihad for God.”

In addition to tapping his phone calls, special operations police also searched through his online chat activity and Facebook account.

They found an image on his Facebook profile reading: “They won’t destroy us, we are the Muslim community of Muhammad.”

Further online surveillance last month reportedly showed him commenting on and ‘liking’ photos of fighters, before starting to interact with a specific group which drew suspicion.

The online community had a cover image of a knight carry a black flag, carrying the slogan, “If you fight in the name of God it’s terrorism, in that case I am the first terrorist”, Tgcom24 said.

In his conversations, he allegedly refers to a trip to Milan to collect funds to help him leave Italy.

“In the Milan mosque the Egyptian imam was calling the police, I swear. I asked him if he could give me a hand to buy the ticket. I swear they threw me out of the mosque and were calling the police,” the website quoted him as saying.

The conversations also refer to God wanting them to conquer Rome and raising “the flag of Allah” atop the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

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Sixty-five people have left Italy to join extremist group Isis, the chief of Italy’s anti-terrorism unit said last month. Of these, ten are thought to be Italian.

The number of foreign fighters leaving Italy is, however, relatively small compared to some other European countries.

The London-based International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR) previously estimated up to 50 foreign fighters had left Italy, compared to 412 from France and 366 from the UK.

READ MORE: Sixty-five people have left Italy to join Isis

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