Overview: Italy collaborated closely with the United States and other partners in its international counterterrorism efforts in 2021. Domestically, Italy investigated and prosecuted terrorist suspects and regularly deported foreign nationals for terrorism-related security reasons. As a member of the Defeat-ISIS Coalition (and co-leader of the Counter-ISIS Finance Group), Italy was among the largest contributors of troops in Iraq and led the Defeat-ISIS Coalition’s efforts to train Iraqi police and security forces.
The United States and Italy co-hosted a Defeat-ISIS Ministerial in Rome in June, which highlighted the growing threat of ISIS in Africa and the continued need for stabilization efforts and FTF repatriations to prevent the resurgence of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Italy remained one of the top troop contributors to NATO, the EU, the UN, and other bilateral and multilateral operations that promote global security, with a particular concentration on the wider Mediterranean region. Italy hosts NATO’s Strategic Direction-South HUB as a forum to connect NATO allies with partners and institutions in North Africa, the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Sahel to promote dialogue and stability. Italian authorities have identified several potential threats to the country, including terrorists from North Africa, returning foreign terrorist fighters, homegrown violent extremists, and fighters from the Western Balkans.
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. Italy is working to improve its screening of migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees in consultation with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
2021 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in Italy in 2021.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: There have been no changes since 2020. Italian law enforcement has increased 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. Law enforcement agencies and intelligence services coordinate their efforts and meet on a regular basis to review terrorist threats and share information. 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. In 2021, Italy expelled 59 individuals suspected of posing a security threat. Police monitoring of jihadist media sites reveals that Italy remains a potential target of terror attacks, attributable in part to the presence of Vatican City, the city-state within Rome.
Prominent arrests and expulsions included the following:
- On March 8, Bari police arrested a 36-year-old Algerian man on charges of terrorism. Authorities offered evidence that the suspect provided forged identity documents to the perpetrators of the 2015 Paris “Bataclan” attack.
- On March 18, Italian authorities expelled a Tunisian migrant accused of telling friends he intended to carry out terror attacks in Italy in the name of jihad.
- On April 21, Italian police arrested a 28-year-old Albanian citizen accused of supplying weapons to the Tunisian terrorist who drove a truck into a crowd in Nice in 2016, killing 86 people.
- On July 5, Italian police arrested four Italian nationals in the southern city of Andria on suspicion of funding jihadists in other countries. Police said the four had sent more than $1 million through money transfers to “foreign collectors” in 49 countries, mostly going to ISIS affiliates.
- On November 17, in Milan, Italian investigators arrested a 19-year-old Italian-Kosovar woman and alleged ISIS militant. She was married to a Kosovar citizen closely linked to Kutjim Fejzulaiv, who allegedly killed four persons in a terrorist attack in Vienna in 2020. Police reportedly found training manuals, audio recordings, and videos praising ISIS in her apartment.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Italy is a member of FATF. Its FIU, the Financial Intelligence Unit of Italy, is a member of the Egmont Group. Italy remained a strong advocate of the UN Security Council sanctions regime against ISIS and al-Qa’ida. Italy is a co-lead for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS’s Counter-ISIS Finance Group, which focuses on the disruption of ISIS financial networks.
Countering Violent Extremism: No new legislation was passed in 2021. 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 its bilateral capacity building efforts in Libya, concentrating on coast guard cooperation and border security measures. Italy also hosted and led EU Operation Irini, charged with implementing the UN arms embargo on Libya. The Italian military continued its training activities with local security forces in Niger to strengthen border security, counter illicit trafficking, and combat threats to regional security. Italian forces also were in Mali as part of Task Force Takuba, which trains and assists the Malian Armed Forces in the fight against armed jihadist groups and as part of the EU Training Mission in Mali.
Italy made a substantial contribution to the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund, an inspired institution of the GCTF, and finalized a project to provide technical assistance on battlefield evidence to multiagency stakeholders in Burkina Faso. The project began in 2021 in cooperation with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
Italy continued to support counterterrorism efforts in regional and multilateral organizations, including the following: the UN, NATO, the EU, the G-7, the Group of Twenty (G-20), the OSCE, the GCTF, the Council of Europe, and FATF. In addition to its leadership of the Counter-ISIS Finance Group and the newly formed Africa Focus Group, Italy is a member of the Foreign Terrorist Fighter, Stabilization, and Communications Working Groups in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.