Italy Deports Tunisian Linked to Islamic State

One of the 700 Tunisian migrants kept in Lampedusa reception center waits to board on a ferry to be taken to the Sicilian city of Catania on April 12, 2011. Around 26,000 undocumented migrants have arrived in Italy so far this year, including around 21,000 who said they were from …

Italian authorities have deported yet another potential terrorist, a Tunisian man who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and was purportedly trying to reach the Syrian-Iraqi region to fight for ISIS.

The 32-year-old Tunisian was known to security forces because of his online activity in a Jihadist forum, and the man had declared his allegiance to the Islamic State on his Facebook page.

Monday’s deportation of the Tunisian was announced by Italy’s Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, and brought the year’s total to 56 such expulsions of Islamic extremists. The total since January 2015 now stands at 122.

Noting that the investigation had been conducted in cooperation with French authorities since the Tunisian had been in touch with an underage Frenchwoman, Alfano said that the man “clearly intended to reach the Syrian-Iraqi theater.”

Alfano underscored that his office was continuing its “intense preventive activity to lessen the level of risk in Italy as much as possible, with the awareness that today no country is at zero risk.”

Italy’s counterterrorism forces have received praise for their effectiveness in thwarting possible attacks, much of which relies on their readiness to expel radicalized Muslims who pose a threat to national security before they have the chance to act.

Last fall, leading military analyst Edward N. Luttwak commended the Italian model, arguing that Italy has been successful in preventing Islamic terror attempts because of its swift and decisive action.

In an essay titled “Doing Counterterrorism Right,” Luttwak observed that despite many factors going against Italy, Islamic terrorists have failed to kill a single person on Italian soil. He contrasted Italy with France and Belgium, observing that although Italy is much more vulnerable than they are, it has been far more effective at stopping would-be terrorists before they strike.

While France has been “caught by surprise again and again by terrorist attacks with many lives lost” and in Belgium “terrorists have been coming and going for years, buying military weapons with remarkable ease,” Italy has remained unscathed, Luttwak said.

And even though the Vatican is the “most iconic target in Europe,” and tops the list of objectives of the Islamic State, “nobody has been killed by Muslim terrorists in Italy,” he added.

Luttwak argued that Italy’s success has been a question of method, based on the insight that the only thing that can be done to stop potential terrorists is to subject suspected jihadists to around the clock surveillance so that they can be arrested or killed at a moment’s notice.

Since the numbers of probable suspects can be astronomical, Luttwak said, their numbers must be effectively reduced if this strategy is to bear fruit. And this is exactly what Italy has done.

While other European nations monitor suspects, filling out reports and keeping files, they often fail to take needed action. The Italians, however, immediately interrogate credible suspects, and many are sent home or arrested, if their situation merits it.

Employing this method, Italian authorities have been able to keep numbers of suspected potential terrorists within a reasonable range and thus are able to monitor them effectively.

The fact that the Italians lump together anti-mafia operations with counterterrorism under their DIGOS counterterrorism agency is also telling. Italy has a long history fighting serious organized crime within its own borders, coming from the different branches of the Italian mafia working in various parts of the peninsula.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter 


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