Fears that Nigel Farage’s warning of a “real and genuine threat” of Islamic State (IS) fighters entering Europe posing as migrants are accurate were confirmed last night with the arrest of a major terrorist suspect near Milan.
The 22-year-old Moroccan, Abdel Majid Touil, was arrested near the family home where he lives with his mother and brothers, holders of Italian residency permits. He is wanted in Tunisia for his suspected role in the attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunis on 18 March.
The attack, for which IS claimed responsibility, resulted in the deaths of 22 people who were mainly European tourists, including one Briton. Accusations listed in Touil’s arrest warrant include premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit attacks against the internal security of the state, belonging to a terrorist group and recruiting and training others to commit terrorist attacks. The Times reports that the Tunisian government believes Touil “participated indirectly in the [Bardo] attack, supporting the ones who carried it out.”
Touil first arrived in Italy in February on a migrant boat by way of Sicily. Moroccans are not offered asylum in Italy so he was given an expulsion order which required him to leave Italy within 15 days. The Daily Mail reports that this was issued to him while he used an alias. After that the Italian authorities lost track of Touil who is then alleged to have resurfaced in Tunis to participate in the museum massacre, following which he disappeared again before re-entering Italy despite his expulsion order.
Touil faces the death penalty if found guilty in Tunisia. This may mean that authorities in Italy, a country which does not normally extradite people at risk of execution, will face legal challenges to his extradition. Neighbours and family members have defended Touil saying that he was in Italy not Tunisia on the date of the massacre.
Italian politicians have echoed Nigel Farage’s earlier warning. According to The Times Giovanni Toti, a leading Forza Italia MEP , said:
“Islamic terrorism is travelling on the boats. Enough good intentions. The government needs to act quickly and block the landings. Let’s not have a repeat of Tunis and Paris.”
“Our country is being turned into a backdoor for jihadist cells.”