Counter-Terrorism Forces Arrest 13 Suspected Jihadists in International Blitz

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AP Photo/Manu Fernandez

In coordinated raids involving simultaneous arrests in several European countries, counter terrorism forces arrested 13 alleged jihadists at the crack of dawn Thursday, on charges of conspiracy for purposes of international terrorism.

In a press conference Thursday morning at the Rome headquarters of Italy’s national anti-Mafia and anti-terrorism bureau, authorities said that special forces had broken up an international plot to carry out a major terrorist attack on Italian soil, but gave no details as to the nature of the attack.

The head of the alleged terrorist plot was Faraj Ahmad Najmuddin, aka Mullah Krekar, founder in 2001 of the Islamic terrorist group Ansar al-Islam and a known figure in the Scandinavian Islamic world. Krekar was running a jihadi network with cells in various countries, including Britain, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway and Sweden.

The Italian special counter terrorism unit (ROS) made six arrests in Italy, while special forces arrested three in Norway and another four in the UK.

The maneuver, known as Operation Jweb, began five years ago and culminated in Thursday’s raids, dismantling a major terrorist network that encompasses several countries.

According to reports, all but one of those arrested are Iraqi Kurds and the other is a Kosovar. Spearheaded by the Italian counter terrorism unit, the investigations involved the collaboration of police and judicial authorities in the United Kingdom, Norway, Finland, Germany and Switzerland. The operation took place under the aegis of Eurojust, an EU agency created in 2002 to combat serious crime.

Krekar made news in 2012, when he was jailed after making death threats to Erna Solberg, Norway’s current Prime Minister who was then an emerging figure of the Conservative Party. Krekar had previously threatened the former Norwegian Prime Minister, Kjell Magne Bondevik, and was monitored for his radical interpretation of Islam.

In the early morning, special forces of the Norwegian police, in coordination with Italian units, arrested two other unnamed people under charges of planning terrorist acts in Italy.

Krekar and two others were arrested as part of the operation, suspected of plotting attacks in Italy, Norway and other European countries.

According to Italian authorities, even from prison Mullah Krekar “continued to act as ideological and executive leader of the organization, making strategic decisions on the most important questions, such as participation in the Syrian conflict and alignment with ISIS.”

Italian authorities have requested that Krekar be extradited to Italy to face charges.

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