Italy arrests Afghan suspected of plotting attacks

10th May 2016, Comments 0 comments

Italian police on Tuesday arrested an Afghan suspected of plotting attacks in Italy, Britain and France after finding incriminating evidence on his mobile phone, prosecutors said.

A second Afghan and a Pakistani man were arrested, in Bari and Milan, for alleged people trafficking, while police issued warrants for two other Afghans on terrorism charges.

A probe was launched in December after four Afghans were spotted taking videos inside a shopping centre in Bari in southern Italy, and a police search of their phones uncovered other images of the city's airport and port, as well as sites in Rome, Paris and London.

"It was clear these were not tourist images. They appear to have been scouting sensitive sites," prosecutor Roberto Rossi said at a press conference in Bari.

The phones also contained images of Italian and Afghan military vehicles and weapons, as well as Taliban propaganda videos and "a series of chants traditionally sung in preparation for martyrdom", he said.

One of the defendants was also seen in a photograph posing with an MS16 semi-automatic rifle, which Rossi said was "not an easy weapon to find on the market".

He also had links on his smartphone to websites "only accessible to those with connections to the international jihadist network".

The suspects had been taking expensive trips between Italy and London, Paris and Istanbul, which they paid for in cash, Rossi said.

Investigators also uncovered details of trafficking prices and routes of migrants into Italy, as well as through Hungary or Calais.

But they were unable to pull information from one of the phones recovered, a locked iPhone. The device's maker Apple recently had a high-profile stand-off with US authorities trying to access data on an iPhone belonging to one the shooters in last December's attack in San Bernadino, California which left 14 dead.

The two Afghans arrested had each been awarded a humanitarian residence permit in Italy -- one in 2011 and one last week.

The latter was still living at a reception centre for asylum seekers when he was detained, and a "selfie" was discovered on his phone of him with the mayor of Bari, Antonio Decaro, taken during a march organised in support of migrants.

Interior Minister Angelino Alfano hailed the "success of a high-level inquiry" and said the case showed no country was "zero risk".

© 2016 AFP

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