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ICT Global Terrorism Brief : Arrests in Bologna, Italy

The international media reported on the 9th of August, 2008 that police in Bologna say they arrested four Tunisians and a Moroccan and are seeking a sixth man. They were investigating an alleged international terrorist ring, which they say recruited suicide bombers for Iraq and Afghanistan. The Italian police stated that it had raided houses and apartments in Bologna, Ravenna on Italy’s Adriatic coast, and Como near Milan. [1]

According to Reuters, the North Africans were also charged with fraud. They were alleged to have collected money from phony car accident insurance claims to finance their operations.[2] Reuters quoted Vincenzo Ciarambino of the Bologna crime squad saying that all six “are accused of criminal association with the aim of international terrorism, and two of them also of serious fraud to fund terrorism”.[3]

They recruited and trained people willing to sacrifice their lives in terrorist attacks in war zones, the police said.[4] The group was suspected of recruiting North Africans in Italy and sending them for training in Bosnia to fight against U.S. and other coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.[5]

According to the BBC, the alleged leader of the terrorist ring was a former mujahideen colonel, who had fought in Bosnia during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

Reuters stated that investigators had gathered information on the activities of the terrorist group through phone taps.

According to the Europol’s 2008 “EU Terrorism and Trend Report”, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal consider that the increasing activities of the North African al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) aiming at international targets have an impact on the threat level in these countries. Italian authorities estimate that, due to their geographical proximity to the Maghreb, they face the risk of terrorists linked to AQIM attempting to enter the EU via Italy.

In addition, the Europol stated in its report that the majority of arrests in Europe in 2007 took place in France, Italy and Spain. As in 2006, a majority of those arrested came from North African countries, such as Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. In 2007 – as in 2006 -, the suspects originating from North Africa were often loosely affiliated with the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group and al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb, according to Europol. 



[1] BBC, “Italy holds five on terror charge”, 9 August 2008.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Reuters, “Italy arrests 5 N.Africans in anti-terrorism swoop”, 9 August 2008

[4] BBC, 9 August 2008

[5] Reuters, 9 August 2008