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Counter terrorism ـ The jihadist threat in Italy

Mar 7, 2023 | Studies & Reports

European Centre for Counterterrorism and Intelligence Studies, Germany & Netherlands – ECCI

The impetuous wind of jihad is also blowing over Italy

Italy24 ـ  It was presented today Report on information security policy, edited by the Intelligence Section relating to the year 2022. What we have repeatedly written in our newspapers or that is blowing ever stronger (even in our country the wind of jihad) is certified by the data contained in the document. Those expelled from the national territory as they were considered threats to national security for the year 2022 were 79 (of which 17 previously repatriated) with a considerable increase considering that in 2021 they had been 59 (the same in 2020 and in 2021) while in 2019 there were 98. On the not very honorable podium of expellees we find Tunisian citizens in first place with 44 units, in second place Moroccans with 15 expelled, followed by 5 Egyptians, 4 Algerians, 3 Nigerians, 2 Gambians. The others who were put on the first plane to return to the motherland belong (1 per country) to France, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Spain and Sweden.

A not negligible aspect is the expulsion of the Moroccan Moutaharrik Abderrahi, known as ‹‹the Isis boxer››, former Swiss kickboxing champion (he trained near Lugano), whose Italian citizenship was previously revoked. It was “the first case of application of the legislation, which came into force in 2018, which provides for the withdrawal of citizenship from definitively convicted of terrorism”. The report underlines the fact that the three jihadist attacks that marked Europe in 2022 «if on the one hand, seem to further consolidate the trend which, in recent years, has seen a significant reduction in the number of attacks – from 15 in 2020 to 6 in 2021 – on the other hand, they show how the level of threat to which the old continent is exposed is still significant”.

An important passage contained in the report is the one dedicated to the hate campaign that began in 2022 and is still ongoing in the Islamic state weekly al-Naba, which is released every Thursday night, «notes, in this regard, the hate campaign re-launched, in the last months of 2022 by al-Naba, the propaganda media apparatus in support of the Caliphate, against the ‘unbelieving Western enemy and traitorous apostate Arabs’ to rekindle resentment in Muslim believers and offer new ideas for planning attacks in their countries”.

A trend that in 2023 has increased dramatically not only on al-Naba but also on other terrorist warheads one above all Voice ofKhurasan and the dozens of telegram channels that refer to ISIS. The jihadist narrative calls for hitting Jews and Christians “wherever they are”, because they are symbols of “Western decadence and, therefore, to be hit, like the European countries and the states of the ‘international crusade’ coalition, including Italy, responsible of the military defeat of Daesh”.

In this climate, the dangers for Europe and for Italy have grown: «In this regard, in the field of international collaboration, especially in the second half of 2022, there has been an increase in reports – still being examined by the Intelligence – relating to the possible sending to Europe of Daesh and al-Qaeda militants, who could make use of logistical and/or operational support, within the diasporas of reference, to carry out unstructured terrorist actions against Western targets. Furthermore, the activity of monitoring sites and social channels continued, used for the creation of virtual communities of sympathizers and/or effective members of terrorist organizations, in order to re-launch extremist messages, plan and inspire attacks, provide instructions on how to assemble and use weapons and explosives.

Another qualifying passage of the report is the analysis of al-Qaeda’s propaganda which in 2022 lost intensity and quality: «During 2022, a significant reduction was noted in al-Qaeda’s online propaganda activity, also in following the elimination of the charismatic leader of the organization, the sheykh Ayman al-Zawahiri, while the media propaganda action of Daesh has tried to keep the attention alive towards the Caliphate and the jihad, with the publication of contents, not unpublished, but reworked in form». As mentioned, our country remains a target of Islamic terrorists: «In the year under review, the intelligence system also identified the persistence of risk factors, both exogenous and endogenous, linked to Sunni extremism.

The destabilization of security infrastructures, in those theaters of crisis abroad where jihadist terrorism is more deeply rooted, fuels the uncertainty of possible infiltrations by contraindicated subjects, intent on taking advantage of the intensification of migratory pressures along the sea and land routes towards our country.” The report also reads that «information attention has also been paid to those radical circuits within certain foreign communities settled in Europe who, by virtue of contacts with radical Islamic circles in their places of origin, could represent a risk for the stability and European security”.

This is a very delicate passage that we have talked about several times in our masthead. Another important aspect contained in the Report on information security policy 2022 is that relating to «instigatory advertising, which continued, against Italy with the dissemination of threatening messages and videos by the jihadist galaxy. This area is the subject of close monitoring due to the risks associated with possible violent activations of radicalized elements. This is demonstrated by the numerous contrasting activities carried out, in the year in question, by the Police Forces with the decisive contribution of the Intelligence Department». Still on the subject of risks for Italy, the intelligence device has identified, in the year in question, the persistence of risk factors, exogenous and endogenous, linked to Sunni extremism: «The destabilization of the security infrastructures, in those theaters of crisis abroad where jihadist terrorism is more deeply rooted, fuels the uncertainty of possible infiltrations by contraindicated subjects, intending to take advantage of the intensification of migratory pressures along the sea and land routes towards our country”.

While with regard to the irreducible foreignfighters who remained on the Syrian-Iraqi front: « It is conceivable that some of them will attempt a relocation to European territory, instead of returning to their homeland, for fear of suffering serious consequences from a legal point of view and personal safety. The information interest was therefore focused, as every year, on the presence, return and/or transit of subjects ‘at risk’, included in the ‘consolidated list’ drawn up within the context of the Anti-terrorism Strategic Analysis Committee.

The total number of foreign fighters, connected to Italy for various reasons, remained substantially unchanged, equal to 146 units, of which 61 deceased and 35 returnees». Finally, there is great attention for what happens in prisons where sometimes people enter as chicken thieves only to then leave radicalized individuals ready for an act of force: “In order to promptly detect any dangerous signs of radicalization, steps were taken to follow the internal dynamics of prison environments, detention centers for repatriation and places intended for worship and sociality, precisely in consideration of the possible risks of both contagion and the strengthening of extremist ideology that could develop within them. In this regard, it is worth emphasizing that the Intelligence, in close synergy on the territory with the Police Forces and local welfare and health services, continued in 2022 with the implementation of specific intervention strategies aimed at early intercepting radicalization processes in an attempt of their disempowerment”.

Therefore the wind of jihad does not stop blowing in Italy too with the difference that compared to other European countries we can count on an intelligence system capable of analysing, predicting and defusing threats when necessary. For a country too often used to hurting itself, this is something to be really proud of.

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