Thursday, November 12, 2015

17 members of a jihadist network arrested across Italy, UK and Norway in joint crackdown by EU police

(Daily Mail) Four men have been arrested in raids across England over fears an ISIS-supporting terror cell were plotting on the dark web to kidnap British diplomats in an attempt to get their leader freed from a Norwegian jail.

The North East Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU) detained the men after Italian officers swooped on a European jihadist network.

Investigators said the network was trying to free Norway-based fundamentalist preacher Najmuddin Ahmad Faraj - also known as Mullah Krekar - who is listed as a terrorist by the United States and United Nations.

Italian anti-terrorism chief Giuseppe Governale told a news conference in Rome: 'This is the most important international police operation in Europe in 20 years.'

Krekar was sentenced last month to 18 months in jail for praising the slaying of cartoonists at the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which had lampooned Islam and other religions. He was also found guilty of urging others to kill a Kurdish immigrant in Norway.

He had been a founder of the now-defunct Ansar al-Islam insurgent group of Sunni Kurds, which aimed to install an Islamic caliphate in Iraqi Kurdistan and merged with the Islamic State group last year.

After moving to live in exile in Norway in 1991, Krekar formed another group, Rawti Shax, to inspire a new generation of Iraqi Kurds in Europe to eventually return to violently overthrow the government in the Iraqi Kurdish region and replace it with a radical caliphate, Italian police said in a statement.

He allegedly controlled the group, even from prison, using the mafia method of passing pizzini, small folded up pieces of paper containing high level communication or orders, Sky TG in Italy reported.

The operation, named Jweb, led by Italian anti-terrorism police had been going for five years investigating the structure and operations of this terrorist organisation, Eurojust said.

According to the Italian investigation, unlike Ansar Al Islam, Rawti Shax arose and is based in Europe, with cells communicating and operating via the dark web, or the hidden part of the internet.

It was especially active in Germany, Switzerland, the UK, Finland, Italy, Greece, Sweden, Norway, Iraq, Iran and Syria.

He developed a network of followers across Europe who communicated by Internet chats, which Italian police monitored, leading to today's arrests.

Conversations intercepted on Sykpe revealed the plan was to attack an embassy in Baghdad or in the south.

One recording said: 'The plan is to attack an embassy in Baghdad or in the south and in Iran also in the Arab countries. But not in Europe. And have two or three guests. They will never return to Norway as long as they live.

‘Me and another brother in an another country, he has asked that we should be alert and form a secret team with two networks. He wanted to know if I am ready. I said I am at his disposition and will obey.’

According to NBC, he also allegedly set up an online 'secret committee', which planned violent assaults including terrorist attacks in Norway and the kidnapping of foreign diplomats.

The planned kidnap of foreign diplomats was designed to leverage his release from custody in Norway, according to the officials.