Overview: Italy collaborated closely with the United States, the EU, and the UN in its international CT efforts. Domestically, Italy investigated and prosecuted terrorist suspects within its borders and deported 98 subjects for terrorism-related security reasons in 2019. Italy is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. As part of the Coalition, Italy was among the top contributors of troops in Iraq, heads the Coalition’s police training sub-group, and leads efforts to train Iraqi police and security forces. Italy continued to co-chair the Coalition’s CIFG with the United States and Saudi Arabia. Italy is a Framework nation and the fourth-largest troop contributor to NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.
In June, Italian and U.S. authorities cooperated to repatriate one Italian FTF from Syria to face prosecution for terrorism-related crimes in Italy. Italian authorities are concerned about the risk posed by returning fighters, as well as fighters dislodged from areas formerly under ISIS control in Libya and elsewhere who may try to use migrant flows to reach Italy. In addition, officials are concerned fighters from the Western Balkans returning to Europe could also pass through Italian territory, given the significant Balkan-origin communities in Italy.
2019 Terrorist Incidents: Yemeni national Mahamad Fathe was arrested in Milan September 17 for stabbing a soldier. Fathe had met with “radicalized” suspects in Germany and fought in the civil war in Yemen. The detainee’s lawyer requested a psychiatric review, as Fathe told investigators he was suicidal.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Under the auspices of the U.S.-Italy Counterterrorism Working Group (a component of the U.S.-Italy Strategic Dialogue), Italian authorities are working to share best practices on migrant screening. The Italian government continued to make use of 2005 legislation facilitating the detention of terrorist suspects and expedited procedures for expelling non-citizens suspected of endangering national security. Italy deported 98 individuals on security grounds in 2019, compared with 126 in 2018. Prominent arrests and expulsions included:
- On February 28, Italian authorities arrested Algerian citizen Mourad Sadaoui in Caserta pursuant to an INTERPOL Red Notice requested by Algerian authorities seeking to prosecute him on terrorism charges for having traveled from Algeria to Syria to join ISIS in 2014. Sadaoui lived in Italy on a work permit from 2003 to 2013. Italian police told the media Sadaoui was the first ISIS FTF returnee arrested in Italy.
- On April 13, the Italian Ministry of Interior (MoI) announced the expulsion of Naser Baftija, a 39-year-old Kosovar resident in Cremona, on grounds that he was considered a “threat to the security of the country” because he “sought to radicalize” students attending his classes, as well as the local Muslim population in Mantua and Cremona.
- On April 17, Italian authorities arrested Islamic convert Giuseppe Frittitta and Moroccan national Ossama Ghafir in Milan and Novara, respectively. Both Frittitta and Ghafir were charged with terrorism-related offenses, including support for committing crimes of terrorism and self-training in activities for the purpose of terrorism.
- In September 2019, Italian police arrested eight Tunisians and two Italians in Abruzzo suspected of financing activities linked to Al-Nusra in Syria. They allegedly used money obtained through tax evasion to finance militant groups in Syria and radical imams in Italy.
- On November 12, police arrested bank clerk Andrea Chesi and his son Yuri, who were accused of having established a REMT terrorist cell in Sovicille, in the province of Siena, and planning to attack the mosque in Colle Val d’Elsa (Tuscany). Investigators searched their residences, seizing explosives, pistols, and rifles.
- On November 28, police detained 19 suspects in Sicily and Northern Italy linked to a REMT group that allegedly sought to build a new Nazi party in Italy. According to media reports, some of the suspects had weapons, access to explosives, and conducted recruitment activities on social media. According to police statements to the media, the group was forging links with other REMT groups in the UK and Portugal, and it was in the early stages of planning attacks on the Milan and Rome headquarters of the National Italian Partisans Association, the veterans group of anti-Mussolini resistance fighters in World War II.
- On December 2, the MoI announced the expulsion of two noncitizens considered a threat to the security of the country, as they had been “seeking to radicalize” the local Muslim population. According to the MoI, Jounayed Ahmed, a 19-year-old Bangladeshi imam, who is a legal resident in Padua, “sought to radicalize” students attending his religious courses. A second individual, Mohamed Bendafi, a 24-year-old Moroccan resident in Turin, also was expelled after authorities determined he had posted explicit videos and messages on social media inviting other Muslims to travel to Syria to join jihadist groups.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Italy is a member of the FATF, and its FIU is a member of the Egmont Group. Italy remained a co-lead of the Defeat ISIS Coalition’s Counter-ISIS Finance Group, along with the United States and Saudi Arabia, and leads the police training sub-group. In March 2019, the Head of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) signed an MOU with the Italian Guardia di Finanza (GdF), for the GdF to provide capacity-building cooperation and training to other member states on countering the financing of terrorism.
Countering Violent Extremism: No changes since last year.
International and Regional Cooperation: Italy continued to support CT efforts in regional and multilateral organizations, including NATO, the OSCE, and the GCTF.
Italy strengthened its CT capacity building efforts in Libya, focusing on coast guard cooperation, investigative training for law enforcement, and border security measures. The Italian military continued its training activities in Niger with local security forces in support of the efforts of Nigerien authorities and G5 Sahel member states to strengthen border security, counter illicit trafficking, and combat threats to regional security.