Milan police nab four on terrorism charges

Dragnet in Lecco, Varese and Verbania provinces.

A raid coordinated by Milan prosecutor Manuela Cannavale on Thursday 28 April led to three arrests in Lombardy and one in Piedmont, while a further two warrants were issued for suspects missing from their home in Lecco and now believed to be in Syria.

All six, Italian citizens of Moroccan origin, are charged with “participation in an association dedicated to international terrorism”. A police statement said material of “considerable investigative importance” had been found in the homes of the suspects, which could lead to the identification of other members of the network.

Kickboxing champion Abderrahim Moutaharrik and his wife Salma Bencharki were arrested in Lecco as they were about to join Daesh (also known as IS or ISIS) as foreign fighters. They were believed to be planning to take with them their children aged 2 and 4, who have now been placed in the care of their grandparents, but Moutaharrik later told investigators he and his family were planning to go to Syria to help children there.

A 33-year-old Moroccan, Abderrahmane Khachia, was arrested in Brunello in Varese province, the brother of a man expelled from Italy in January 2015 and later confirmed killed in fighting in Syria. He is believed to have been about to join Moutaharrik and Bencharki in their move to Syria.

Then 24-year-old Wafa Koraichi was arrested in Bavenoin Verbania province. She is the sister of the other two subjects of arrest warrants, Mohammed Koraichi and his wife Alice Brignoli, who adopted the name Aisha after converting to Islam, and who are both now in Syria with their three sons.

Italian police issued a photo of the three children in camouflage uniform and holding up the one-finger salute of Daesh, as well as a video of Moutaharrik in the boxing ring.

Messages via WhatsApp from Koraichi to Moutaharrik urging him to organise terrorist outrages in Italy were intercepted by the authorities, leading to the unravelling of the group and today’s arrests, said investigating magistrates Francesco Cajani and Enrico Pavone.

Interceptions also indicated that the plotters at one point intended to attack the Vatican and the Israeli embassy in Rome, and were seeking contacts to obtain arms for these plans.