Overview: Italy collaborated closely with the United States and international partners in its international counterterrorism efforts during 2020. Domestically, Italy aggressively investigated and prosecuted terrorist suspects and regularly deported foreign nationals for terrorism-related security reasons. As a member of the Defeat-ISIS Coalition, Italy was the second-largest contributor of troops in Iraq, where it heads the Defeat-ISIS police training subgroup and leads efforts to train Iraqi police and security forces. Italy is a framework nation and remains the fourth-largest troop contributor to NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. It also hosts NATO’s Hub for the South.
Italian authorities have identified several potential threats to the country, including terrorists from North Africa, returning foreign fighters, homegrown violent extremists, and fighters from the Western Balkans passing through Italy en route to other European countries.
Italian and U.S. authorities regularly share counterterrorism best practices under the auspices of the U.S.-Italy Counterterrorism Working Group, a component of the U.S.-Italy Strategic Dialogue.
2020 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in Italy in 2020.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Italian law enforcement has advanced capacity to detect and deter terrorist activity, links, and associations within its borders. Authorities employ those capabilities to counter terrorist recruitment, radicalization to violence, and networking. The police (specifically the Central Directorate of the Prevention Police), ROS Carabinieri (the investigative unit of the gendarmerie), Guardia di Finanza (financial police), other specialized law enforcement agencies, and the intelligence services coordinate their counterterrorism efforts and meet on a regular and systematic basis to review terrorist threats and share information.
Italy continued to repatriate citizens and their family members who joined ISIS in Iraq and Syria. On September 29, Italian authorities repatriated Alice Brignoli, an Italian national who joined ISIS in Syria, to be prosecuted in Italy. Her four minor children were also repatriated and placed in a rehabilitation program.
The Italian government continued to make use of 2005 legislation facilitating the detention of terrorist suspects and expedited procedures for expelling noncitizens suspected of endangering national security. The Ministry of Interior has the authority to swiftly expel noncitizens for “seriously disturbing public order, endangering national security, or religious discrimination,” even if insufficient evidence exists to prosecute the individual. Prominent arrests and expulsions included the following:
- On January 4, Italian authorities arrested and expelled a 41-year-old Moroccan imam by order of the Minister of the Interior. The imam, a Padua resident, expressed support for the Islamic State and jihadists fighting in Syria and shared ISIS propaganda videos over Facebook. He was extradited from Bologna to Casablanca on a military plane.
- On March 26, Italian authorities announced that Mullah Krekar, a militant Islamic scholar, had been extradited from Norway to Italy, where he is currently serving a prison sentence. Italian authorities requested the extradition on suspicion that Krekar was a leader of Rawti Shax, an offshoot of Ansar al-Islam.
- On June 12, Carabinieri regiments in Rome arrested seven anarchists for association with the aim of terrorism and subversion of democratic order, as well as acts of violence with explosives and other crimes.
A Tunisian national who entered Europe on October 29 through the southern Italian island of Lampedusa traveled to France and was later suspected of carrying out a knife attack in a church in Nice. Italy is working to improve its screening of migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees in consultation with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Italy is a member of FATF. Its FIU, the Financial Intelligence Unit of Italy (UIF), is a member of the Egmont Group. Italy is also a member of the Defeat-ISIS CIFG. Italy remained a strong advocate of the UN Security Council sanctions regime against ISIL and al-Qa’ida.
Countering Violent Extremism: No new legislation was passed. The Penitentiary Administration’s Central Investigative Center continued to carry out investigations and respond to cases of possible radicalization to violence in Italian jails and prisons. Italian authorities also increased monitoring and prevention efforts to identify hostile “lone actors” online. Palermo is a member of the Strong Cities Network.
International and Regional Cooperation: Italy continued to support counterterrorism efforts in regional and multilateral organizations, including the following:
- The United Nations
- The European Union
- The G-7
- The G-20
- The OSCE
- The GCTF
- The Council of Europe
Italy continued its 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 G-5 Sahel member states to strengthen border security, counter illicit trafficking, and combat threats to regional security.
Italy made a substantial contribution to the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund, an institution of the GCTF, and finalized a project to provide technical assistance on battlefield evidence to multiagency stakeholders in Burkina Faso. The project will be carried out in 2021 in cooperation with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.