Italy raises security measures after 2 terrorism arrests in 48 hours



ROME, Alvise Armellini (dpa)- Italian national security forces were placed on high alert late Wednesday following the arrest of two suspected Islamic State terrorists within 48 hours.
On Tuesday, an Islamist teacher who indoctrinated young children towards jihad was held in the southern city of Foggia, while a potential "lone wolf" terrorist was nabbed in Turin the next day.



In response, Interior Minister Marco Minniti chaired an extraordinary meeting in Rome in which he asked police to "further strengthen controls" at tourist hotspots and other busy locations.
"All police forces and the network of intelligence services will be deployed non-stop on the anti-terrorism front," the interior ministry said in a statement.
The message was issued ahead of Pope Francis' Easter celebrations in Rome, which were already considered an at-risk public event, and amid concern sparked by the recent anti-terrorism operations.
In the north-western province of Turin, police arrested Elmahdi Halili, a 23-year-old son of Moroccan immigrants, and charged him with affiliation to the Islamic State terrorist organization.
Turin police chief Francesco Messina said Halili had a history of spreading Islamist propaganda on the internet, and had recently moved to researching how to carry out "lone wolf" terror attacks.
"[He] certainly needed to be prevented from doing any harm," Messina said in a press conference. "He was very motivated towards a certain direction that is very dangerous," he added.
Messina said that Halili, who hails from a "normal family" who disapproved of his radicalism, researched how to stab people or use trucks for attacks on Rumiyah, the Islamic State's online magazine.
"We did not allow him to go beyond this," the police chief said.
Halili was also found to be in possession of jihadist material in English or Arabic, which he would "meticulously translate and/or edit in Italian" for propaganda and proselytism purposes, police said.
Thirteen other suspects, including foreigners and Italian converts to Islam "actively involved in a campaign of radicalization and proselytism" were placed under investigation, police said.
Halili was previously known to police, as he was handed a suspended two-year jail sentence in 2015, in a plea bargain over the spreading of terrorist propaganda, the interior ministry said.
In an interview with the La Stampa newspaper, Minniti said Italy - the only major European Union state which has been spared from Islamist attacks - was facing a high terrorist threat.
Referring to the arrested teacher in Foggia, he called his proselytising to minors "absolutely chilling" and "unprecedented in the West," and akin to Islamic State methods in Syria and Iraq.
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Thursday, March 29th 2018
Alvise Armellini (dpa)
           


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