Italian of Moroccan origin arrested by anti-terror police


Italian anti-terrorism police arrested an Italian citizen of Moroccan origin on suspicion of supporting Islamic State and are investigating his accomplices.

It is the latest in a series of arrests this month involving suspected supporters of Islamist terrorism and comes as Italy steps up the number of foreigners it expels.

A statement identified the arrested man as Elmahdi Halili (23) arrested in Turin.

Police said Halili received a two-year suspended prison term in 2015 for “instigating terrorism” running a website that praised Islamic State and hailed some attacks it or its supporters carried out in Europe.

The police operation targeted an undisclosed number of people, both foreign and Italian, some converted to Islam and part of “a campaign of radicalisation”. It was not clear from the statement if they were also arrested.

Details of the operation, in which about 13 homes were searched, were due to be announced at a news conference.

In an interview published in the Turin newspaper La Stampa, Interior Minister Marco Minniti said the security threat to Italy from supporters of Islamic State was higher than ever.

This was because more so-called foreign fighters would be attempting to return to Europe via Italy after IS suffered a series of defeats in Syria and Iraq.

Wednesday’s operation was the latest in a string of arrests in Italy of people suspected of supporting Islamic State.

On Tuesday in Foggia, police arrested an Egyptian-born man suspected of being a member of Islamic State and of indoctrinating young children in a cultural centre he ran. They said the man encouraged children to kill non-Muslims.

On March 15, police acting on a tip from the US FBI arrested a man of Latvian origin who they said was preparing pipe bombs. A judge’s detention order said the man was planning an attack on a kindergarten.

In recent months, Italy stepped up expulsions of foreigners believed to be a threat to national security. To date this year, 29 have been expelled, mostly Muslims, compared to 132 for all of 2017.