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news 30 Mar 17

Italian Police in Venice Arrest Kosovar Suspected Jihadists

Four suspected jihadists from Kosovo – one of whom is a minor - were arrested by Italian police in Venice while reportedly planning an attack on the famous Rialto Bridge. 

Die Morina BIRN Pristina
An ISIS member in Syria. Photo: Beta/AP.

Italian police and the Carabinieri on Wednesday night arrested suspected Islamist militants from Kosovo - with valid residence permits in Italy - following 12 raids – 10 of which were in Venice’s historic centre, one in Mestre, the mainland suburb of Venice, and one in Treviso.

The Kosovo online newspaper Gazeta Express named those arrested as Fisnik Bekaj, 24,  Dake Haziraj, 25 and Arjan Babaj, 27. The identity of the minor has not been published yet.

According to the UK Daily Telegraph, the telephone conversations of the suspects were recorded celebrating last week’s terrorist attack in London, in which Muslim convert Khalid Masood, 52, drove a car into crowds walking across Westminster Bridge, killing three people, and then fatally stabbed a policeman, Keith Palmer, outside Parliament.

“They were all attached to the ideology of ISIS and interested in the recent attacks, above all the one in London, which they praised,” Adelchi D’Ippolito, a prosecutor, said, according to the Telegraph.

They had allegedly downloaded information from extremist websites about how to carry out terrorist attacks, the Telegraph reported, adding that, “It was not clear whether an attack was imminent.”

Two of the men worked as waiters in Venice, according to a local newspaper, La Nuova Venezia. One suspect was arrested in an apartment close to La Fenice, Venice’s historic opera house.

 “Compliments to the forces of law and order for having carried out this important operation,” Luigi Brugnaro, the mayor of Venice, said. “In the name of the city and of all citizens, I can only express sincere thanks for what they are doing to ensure our safety.”

Around 100 people have been arrested in Kosovo since September 2014 on charges of active membership of, or affiliation to, Islamist groups including ISIS and Al-Nusra.

More than 50 are on trial. The authorities estimate that about 300 Kosovo Albanians have joined ISIS and Al Nusra in total.

On February 2017, the Albanian ISIS commander Ridvan Haqifi, an Imam from Gjilan/ Gilanje in Kosovo, better known under his nom-de-guerre Al- Kosovi, was reported dead.

Haqifi became infamous for a video in which he warned Kosovars that "black days were coming" to them.

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Background

Western Balkans on Alert Over ISIS Threat

Countries in the region have raised security levels and introduced new precautions to counter the threat of terrorist attacks by Islamic State.

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