Accessibility links

Breaking News

Italy Arrests 2 Terror Suspects Training for Combat in Syria

FILE - Suspected Islamic State (IS) group fighters and civilians are screened by members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the village of Baghuz, Syria, March 20, 2019.

Authorities on Wednesday arrested an Italian convert to Islam and a Moroccan resident who met over the Internet and were preparing to fight with Islamic State in Syria.

Sicilian prosecutors who ordered the arrests said investigators had identified the Italian suspect, 25-year-old Giuseppe Frittatta, from social media posts. They included extremist propaganda as well as photos of himself holding a knife with a 26-centimeter (10-inch) blade calling for deaths to "'all westerners."

The 18-year-old Moroccan, Ossama Gafhir, is alleged to have induced Frittatta toward extremism, and was following stringent fitness routine to prepare for combat.

Frittata — a Sicilian who changed his name to Yusef — allegedly was in contact with extremists in Italy and abroad, including an American that prosecutors are trying to identify who provided Islamic State battlefield details.

The arrests were carried out in northern Italy.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said the arrests reinforced his decision to close Italian ports to humanitarian rescue boats with migrants, "seeing that we already have potential terrorists at home."

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte, who met Tuesday with the deputy premier of Libya's U.N.-backed government, Ahmed Maitig, said renewed fighting could create a "humanitarian crisis that could expose our country to the risk of arrivals by foreign fighters."

Salvini told reporters that some 500 "terrorists" were in Libyan jails, adding "we don't want to see them arrive by sea."