Terrorist suspect ‘ordered by Isis to launch Rome attacks’

UPDATED: One of the four people arrested in Italy on Thursday was allegedly given an order from Isis extremists to launch attacks in Rome during the Catholic Holy Year, including on the Israeli embassy.

Terrorist suspect 'ordered by Isis to launch Rome attacks'
The couple were identified as Abderrahim Moutaharrik, a kickboxer, and wife Salma Bencharki. Photo: Polizia di Stato

The order was allegedly made via WhatsApp to Abderrahim Moutaharrik, a kickboxing champion who along with his wife,  Salma Bencharki, was arrested in the Lombardy province of Lecco, which lies on the eastern shore of Lake Como.

The couple were allegedly planning to join Isis in Syria, taking their two children, aged two and four, with them, police said.

Milan prosecutor Maurizio Romanelli said during a press conference that while there was no indication of an imminent attack, the incercepted messages indicated orders from Isis to launch attacks in Italy, specifically in Rome.

The pair were arrested as part of an investigation between the anti-terror squad, Digos, and Ros, or Special Operations Group, an organization which fights organized crime.

Arrest warrants were also issued for a 39-year-old Italian woman, Alice Brignoli, who changed her name to Aisha, and her husband Mohamed Korachi. The couple fled Italy last year to join Isis in Syria.

Meanwhile Koraich's sister, Wafa, was arrested in the Piedmont town of Baveno, while Abderrahmane Khachia, a 23-year-old Moroccan was arrested in Varese, Lombardy. Khachia is the brother of a jihadist who died in Syria, police said.

The latest arrests come just days after James Clapper, the US director of national intelligence, said there were dormant Isis cells in Italy, German and the UK.

Read more: How real is the threat from dormant Isis cells in Italy?


Italy expels Tunisian tied to Berlin Christmas market attack

Italy's interior ministry said on Saturday it had expelled a Tunisian national linked to the man who carried out a deadly 2016 attack on a Berlin Christmas market.

Italy expels Tunisian tied to Berlin Christmas market attack
The aftermath of the Berlin Christmas Market attack. Image: DPA

Montassar Yaakoubi, described by the ministry as “an associate of the Tunisian terrorist Anis Amri,” was flown to Tunisia on a special flight, the ministry said in a statement, without specifying when.

It was Italy's first such expulsion of a foreign national on state security grounds since such repatriations were suspended due to the coronavirus emergency, it said.

READ: Berlin remembers victims of Christmas market attack

Yaakoubi hosted Amri in Italy before the latter's move to Germany in 2015, the ministry said.

On December 19, 2016, Amri — a rejected asylum seeker from Tunisia and known radical jihadist — hijacked a truck, ploughing into a crowded Christmas market in central Berlin and killing 12 people.

Amri, 24, managed to flee Germany after the attack but was shot in Milan by police four days later. In the past five years, Italy has expelled 482 foreign nationals on security grounds, including 21 in 2020.