Italian police announced yesterday the arrest of a 25-year-old Moroccan man near Pisa on charges of spreading jihadist propaganda and inciting terrorism against a number of high-profile targets, including the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Statue of Liberty.
Ansa reports police identified the suspected jihadist arrested in Ponsacco, a town in the province of Pisa, as unemployed 25 year old Jalal El Hanaoui. The convicted drug dealer was born at Souk Sebt in Morocco, but having joined family in Italy when he was eight years old he has lived there ever since.
The Tower of Pisa and Statue of Liberty were not his only targets. He also posted pictures of the Cathedral of St Basil in Moscow and the Israeli West Bank Barrier using three Facebook identities to instigate holy war among 12,000 followers. In discussion with two other suspects El Hanaoui advocated the use of massacres, murders and attacks in order to bring about an Islamic state.
The Local reports El Hanaoiu was the latest arrest in a wider sweep conducted by Italy’s counter-terrorist law enforcement agency, DIGOS (Divisione Investigazioni Generali e Operazioni Speciali). 12 others were arrested last week.
Two North Africans were arrested in Rome on suspicion of being part of an al-Qaeda-inspired cell planning attacks in Italy and North Africa. Ten others, Italians and Albanians united in one family by marriage, were accused of planning to fight for Islamic State (IS) in Syria. One suspect is a Canadian resident in Italy.
That investigation began when an Italian female convert to Islam, Maria Giulia Sergio, joined IS after marrying an Albanian jihadi. The couple took the well-trodden path to Syria via Turkey soon after their September wedding, accompanied by the husband’s mother.
Sergio persuaded her parents and a sister, also Muslim converts, to join her. In order to do so her family sold their furniture and applied for passports before they were arrested for “organising a journey for terrorist ends” – the first time the recently introduced offence has been used.
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