MILAN (AP) – Italian authorities have arrested a 38-year-old Chechen accused of fighting with the Islamic State group in Syria and participating in a deadly attack on foreign and Russian journalists in Chechnya, prosecutors disclosed Saturday.
Prosecutors told a news conference in the southern city of Bari that Eli Bombataliev, who had been living in nearby Foggia since 2012, was arrested three days ago on terror charges under emergency measures as he was preparing to depart for Belgium.
They said evidence indicates that he was in touch with the Islamic State network based in Belgium, where he intended to travel as soon as he received an Italian residency permit.
According to wiretaps, the man told his Russian wife that he was prepared to carry out an attack if ordered. “If tomorrow they call to offer myself up, I must do it,” prosecutors quoted him as saying.
As part of the operation, authorities expelled the wife, identified as a 49-year-old Russian woman living illegally in Italy, and two Albanian brothers in their 20s who were legal residents.
According to prosecutors, Bombataliev was trying to get his wife to become a suicide bomber, which she was resisting by saying she was his second wife and the first wife should “sacrifice herself first.”
Bombataliev allegedly responded that the first wife “is already ready.” Authorities are investigating.
Prosecutors said evidence indicates Bombataliev participated in an attack on journalists in Grozny, Chechnya in December 2014 that left 19 dead and that he fought in Syria in 2014 and 2015.