An Iraqi national who is believed to have smuggled jihadists into Europe has been arrested as part of a wider anti-terror sweep after being heard planning further terror attacks.
Majid Muhamad, a 45-year-old kebab shop owner, was arrested in the Italian city of Bari for providing logistical support to people linked to an Ansar Al Islam (“Supporters of Islam”) terror cell, reports La Repubblica. From March to May this year he is said to have provided counterfeit documents and shelter for members of the radical group which is often linked to Al Qaeda.
Reuters reports that police claim he was tied to an imam who had lived in the notorious Molenbeek neighbourhood of Brussels.
In 2013 Mr. Muhamad was released from prison in Italy having served ten years on international terrorism charges. He was scheduled to be expelled and transferred to Bari pending that, but won his appeal against the deportation ruling.
It was then he established himself in Bari’s local fabric both through force of personality, and by getting an apartment and setting up a kebab shop which likely became a meeting point for other immigrants. At this time it is thought he began renewing his contacts to terrorist affiliates.
Police investigators from Italy’s dedicated anti-terror and organised crime squad, Digos, tapped Mr. Muhamad’s telephone calls, intercepting communications with contacts in Norway regarding plans for probable terror attacks. A search of his home revealed several postcards with messages in Arabic which were exchanged with other suspected terrorists during his imprisonment, as well as a notebook in which he had highlighted the name of Bassam Ayachi, a Salafist cleric and French citizen linked to Islamic terrorism.
Mr. Muhamad’s arrest is the latest blow against Ansar Al Islam, several members of which were arrested across Europe in November, reports The Local. Six were arrested in Italy, four in Britain and three in Norway on suspicion of trying to spring their spiritual founder, Emir Mullah Kreka, from his long-term detention in Norway.
Mullah Kreka, a Kurdish Iraqi, was to be deported from Norway in 2003 after authorities deemed him to be a threat to national security. While appeals against that ruling have failed he cannot actually be sent to Iraq as he would face the death penalty there, a fate from which he is protected by Norwegian law.