Country Report on Terrorism 2018 - Chapter 1 - Italy

Overview: Italy collaborated closely with the United States, the EU, and the UN in its international counterterrorism efforts. Italy is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and the GCTF. As part of the Coalition, Italy was the second largest contributor of troops in Iraq, after the United States, heads the Coalition’s police training sub-group, and leads efforts to train Iraqi police and security forces. Italy continued to co-chair the Defeat-ISIS Coalition’s Counter-Finance working group with the United States and Saudi Arabia. Italy is the fourth largest troop contributor to NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan and hosts NATO’s Hub for the South.

Domestically, Italy investigated and prosecuted terrorist suspects within its borders, and deported 117 individuals for terrorism-related reasons. Criminal and low-level terrorist acts, such as those involving small IEDs, remained a threat. Italy has identified approximately 100 FTFs 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, Italian 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.

2018 Terrorist Incidents: On October 13, a small IED concealed in an envelope exploded in front of the Lega political party office in Ala, in the province of Trento, ahead of a visit of Deputy Prime Minister/Minister of Interior and Lega leader Matteo Salvini. No injuries were reported. Police identified two suspects who were members of an anarchist group.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In November, Parliament passed the so-called “Salvini Decree,” a package of law enforcement and migration measures containing provisions making it easier to strip citizenship from naturalized migrants convicted of terrorism. In addition, the decree requires automobile rental companies to share information on van and truck rentals with police to allow for terrorism-related screening. Italian authorities continue to work with the U.S. government on building Italy’s capacity to screen arriving migrants for known and suspected terrorists. 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. In 2018, Italy deported 117 individuals on security grounds, up from 105 in 2017.

Prominent arrests and expulsions in 2018 included the following:

  • In January, police deactivated a small IED in front of the Rome office of the political party Brothers of Italy. No suspects were named, but a few weeks later the same office was vandalized and spray-painted with anarchist symbols.
  • On April 20, police arrested a Gambian migrant in Naples suspected of preparing an attack. The suspect had reportedly been radicalized to violence in Libya before crossing to Italy by sea. He had been in contact with ISIS supporters, who sent him €1,500 (US $1,705) and instructions on how to execute an attack.
  • In May and October, police expelled an Albanian citizen and his sister, both residents in the province of Grosseto, for having engaged in recruitment for ISIS. The two were identified as part of a larger investigation dating from 2015, which led to the arrest of 10 other suspects in Italy and to the identification of a number of FTFs of Italian origin who traveled to Syria.
  • On May 10, police arrested in Lombardy and Sardinia 11 Syrian and three Moroccan suspects accused of raising US $2.3 million for al-Nusrah Front in Syria. The funds were mainly generated by profits from migrant smuggling through the Balkans and into Italy.
  • On August 17, two Moroccan citizens were expelled for espousing violence and spreading pro-ISIS propaganda. One had recently completed a drug-related sentence in a prison in Calabria where he had become radicalized to violence. Both were deported to Morocco on direct flights, accompanied by police escort.
  • On November 2, police expelled a 23-year-old Kosovo citizen who returned to Milan despite having been expelled in 2015 for circulating jihadist propaganda online. His earlier deportation banned him from reentering Italy for 10 years.
  • On November 12, police expelled a 29-year-old Tunisian citizen, resident in Ravenna, who had been detained for drug-related charges. During a previous incarceration, he showed signs of radicalization to violence, celebrating the news of the 2016 terror attacks in Brussels and making statements in support of ISIS.
  • On November 28, police arrested a Palestinian, Amin al Haj, in Macomer, Sardinia. He was suspected of planning a chemical attack and being member of ISIS. According to press reporting, his cousin Mohamed Hassad told Lebanese police that Amin, who proclaimed loyalty to ISIS, participated in a failed terror attack against the Lebanese army several years ago. In Sardinia, he purchased substances that he intended to use in an attack on the water supply of a local military barracks.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Italy is a member of 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.

For additional information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

Countering Violent Extremism: There were no significant changes in Italy’s CVE efforts since the 2017 report.

International and Regional Cooperation: Italy continued to support counterterrorism efforts in regional and multilateral organizations, including NATO, the OSCE, and the GCTF. In its capacity as 2018 OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Italy hosted a conference on counterterrorism in May entitled “The Reverse Flow of Foreign Terrorist Fighters: Challenges for the OSCE Area and Beyond.” At the conference, OSCE subject matter experts exchanged best practices on tracing FTFs and strengthening counterterrorism cooperation. Italy strengthened its counterterrorism capacity building efforts in Libya, focusing on coast guard cooperation, investigative training for law enforcement, and border security measures. In 2018, the Italian military commenced 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.