Country Report on Terrorism 2017 - Chapter 1 - Italy

Overview: Italy aggressively investigated and prosecuted terrorist suspects and dismantled suspected terrorist-related cells within its borders. Authorities continued to implement counterterrorism legislation adopted in 2015 aimed at identifying and disrupting the recruitment and flow of foreign terrorist fighters. Criminal and low-level terrorist acts, such as those involving incendiary devices or small improvised explosive devices, remained a threat. Italy maintained a high level of professional cooperation with the United States and international partners in all areas, including terrorist information sharing and in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. Italy was the second largest contributor of troops, after the United States, to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, as well as the Defeat ISIS Coalition’s efforts to train Iraqi police and security forces in Iraq. There were approximately 1,400 personnel deployed to Iraq from Italy, including about 500 Italian troops providing site security for workers employed by Trevi, an Italian engineering firm engaged in critical repair work on the Mosul Dam. Italy continued to co-chair the Coalition’s Counter-ISIS Finance working group with the United States and Saudi Arabia.

Italy has identified approximately 100 foreign terrorist fighters that traveled to Iraq or Syria. Italian authorities are concerned about the risk posed by returning fighters, as well as fighters dislodged from areas formerly under ISIS control in Libya who may try to use migrant flows to reach Italy. In addition, officials are concerned that fighters returning from the Western Balkans could also pass through its territory, given the significant Balkan-origin communities in Italy.

At the conclusion of the G-7 Interior Ministerial at Ischia on October 20, Italy and the United States signed an arrangement to implement a Secure Real Time Platform on data exchange to screen arriving migrants against U.S. terrorism databases.

2017 Terrorist Incidents: On May 18, a homeless man stabbed two army officers and a police officer at a train station in Milan. The man was arrested and later investigated for alleged Facebook posts expressing pro-ISIS views. The investigation was ongoing at the end of 2017. On December 7, two anarchist groups linked to the Informal Anarchist Federation and the International Revolutionary Front claimed responsibility for a rudimentary improvised explosive device that detonated in front of a Carabinieri police station in Rome. There were no injuries.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In 2017, law enforcement took significant actions against terrorists and terrorist groups, including proactive, well-publicized disruptions, arrests, and prosecutions. The Italian government continued to make use of 2005 legislation that facilitated the detention of terrorist suspects and expedited procedures for expelling non-citizens suspected of endangering national security. As of December 12, Italy had deported 100 individuals on security grounds, up from 60 in 2016. Prominent arrests and expulsions included the following:

  • Police arrested one Moroccan and two Tunisian members of an alleged cell in Perugia on March 23, following a Postal Police cyber investigation. The cell allegedly spread terrorist propaganda in Arabic and Italian, posting pictures and video of ISIS attacks on Facebook.
  • On August 19, the Ministry of Interior deported one Syrian/Tunisian and two Moroccan nationals, citing national security concerns. On August 28, as part of the same action, the Ministry of Interior deported a 37-year-old Moroccan citizen for the same reason. The man had been incarcerated in an Italian prison for petty crimes.
  • On October 7, at the request of French authorities, Italian police in Ferrara arrested Anis Hanachi, a 25 year-old Tunisian who is the brother of Ahmed Hanachi, the attacker who stabbed two women in Marseille on October 1. Investigators believe that Anis, who was a foreign terrorist fighter in Syria and Iraq between 2014 and 2016, indoctrinated his brother and instigated him to commit the attack.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Italy is a member of the Financial Action Task Force, and its financial intelligence unit 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. There have been no significant changes to its policies for countering the financing of terrorism since the 2016 report. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): In February, the government reached an agreement with the Union of Islamic Communities and Organizations in Italy that involved moderate imams working in six prisons to prevent radicalization to violence among prisoners. This was one of the measures recommended by a government commission in September 2016. On July 18, the Chamber of Deputies approved a bill intended to prevent radicalization to violence. Pending final approval in the Senate, the new legislation would establish a National Center on Radicalization within the Ministry of the Interior to implement the national CVE strategy, including training of police and magistrates.

International and Regional Cooperation: Italy continued to support counterterrorism efforts in regional and multilateral organizations, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the Global Counterterrorism Forum. In September, Italy co-led with the United Kingdom and France a UN General Assembly high-level side event on “Preventing Terrorist Use of the Internet” focused on technology industry engagement. At the October 19-20 Ischia G-7 Interior Ministerial, Italy brought together G-7 members and private information technology and social media companies to sign a declaration of intent to monitor radicalization to violence on the internet and the use of social media as a recruitment tool by terrorists. Italy was a member of the UN Security Council in 2017 and in December co-sponsored UN Security Council resolution 2396 on returning and relocating foreign terrorist ‎fighters.

Italy strengthened its counterterrorism capacity building efforts in Libya, focusing on coast guard cooperation, investigative training for law enforcement, and border security measures.