Like other European states, Italy has become increasingly fearful that the Lashkar’s infrastructure could support operations by autonomous Islamist cells operating on its soil.
In October, Libyan national Mohamed Game attacked an Italian Army barracks in Milan, armed with an improvised explosive device carried on his body. The device failed to function properly, and although Game was left in a coma, he succeeded only in injuring one soldier who tried to bar his entry into restricted areas of the complex.
Before the bombing, Italian authorities had succeeded in interdicting a succession of operations targeting the country. In December, 2008, Moroccan immigrants Rachid Ilhami and Gafir Abdelkadir were held on charges of attempting to recruit cadre to execute suicide bombings against both military and civilian targets.
In February, 2002, four Moroccan nationals were arrested for plotting to release a cyanide-based compound into aqueducts running alongside the United States Embassy in Rome. In January, 2006, Italy’s Parliamentary Committee for Oversight of Secret Services stated that there was “concrete evidence” that Islamist terror groups attempted to target the winter Olympics in Turin.
Police in Italy believe that pro-Islamist clerics, particularly those active among immigrant communities, have contributed to the construction of an ideological infrastructure that could hold out long-term threats to the state. Illhami, for example, was a religious preacher who worked with a cultural circle called Pace, or Peace, near Milan.
In 2003, police in Brescia arrested Mourad Trabelsi, the head of a mosque in nearby Cremona, on charges of conspiring with the northern Iraq-based al-Qaeda affiliate Ansar al-Islam. Investigators later discovered a copy of a 1996 letter from al-Qaeda chief Osama bin-Laden in the mosque, inviting young Saudi Arabian nationals to join in the jihad against the United States.
Brescia was targeted for attack the following year, when Casablanca native Moustafa Chouki attempted to blow up his Fiat car, fitted with four kitchen-gas cylinders, outside a local restaurant.
Earlier, Kuwait national Muhammad al-Khatib was killed when his car blew up close to a synagogue in Modena, south-east of Brescia.
Police also arrested three Algerian nationals who are alleged to have been planning a massive attack on Brescia and Naples. Italian anti-terrorism investigators said they had intercepted conversations in which Yamine Bouhrama, Mohamed Larbi and Khaled Serai planned to execute the attacks by packing a large ship with explosives.
In a recent article in the United States West Point officer academy’s journal, Counter-Terrorism Centre Sentinal, analyst Federico Bordonaro suggested that “a new type of terrorist model is taking shape in Italy.”
Dr. Bordonaro’s observations suggest that future terrorist groups operating within Europe would have few links with traditional jihadist organisations, and thus depend on locally-available resources.