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Police in Italy, Kosovo Detain 4 Men Suspected of IS Links

FILE - Kosovo police detain a terror suspect in the capital Pristina.

Italian and Kosovo police have detained four Kosovo citizens allegedly linked to the Islamic State group (IS) for spreading Islamist propaganda and for making threats against Pope Francis and a former U.S. ambassador.

The four are all suspected of "condoning terrorism" and "inciting racial hatred," Italian police said.

An operation simultaneously conducted by police of the two countries early Tuesday resulted in three arrests in Italy and one in Kosovo.

All four allegedly often visited a jihadist Facebook group whose members are known to be in Syria, where a few hundred Kosovo-born volunteers have joined IS.

"They were threatening the pope, celebrating the recent attacks in Paris and threatening the former U.S. ambassador to Kosovo," said a police chief in the northern Italian city of Brescia, where the investigation was based.

The three men in Italy were detained as police conducted searches in four cities – Brescia, Padua, Perugia and Vicenza - one is being held, while two are being expelled under anti-terrorism measures because the evidence against them was not deemed strong enough to seek prosecution, a top security official said.

The man in Kosovo is an ethnic Albanian arrested south of the capital, Pristina. He is suspected of being the group's leader, which police say is trying to recruit fighters to go to Syria and Iraq and promoting terrorist activities on social media.

Italy has tightened its controls on Islamist suspects in the wake of the November 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more. Last week, it expelled four Moroccans suspected of promoting jihadism.