Italian police break up alleged jihadist cell that planned to attack Venice’s Rialto Bridge


From the Telegraph

Italian police broke up an alleged jihadist cell in Venice that drew inspiration from last week’s terrorist attack in London and planned to blow up the city’s famous Rialto Bridge in the hope of killing hundreds of tourists.

In a series of overnight raids, anti-terrorism police arrested three suspects, all of them Kosovars who were living in Italy.  Fisnik Bekaj, 24, Dake Haziraj, 25, and Arian Babaj, 27, were allegedly admirers of Islamic State and were secretly recorded discussing how they were ready to die for the sake of jihad. A fourth person, an unnamed minor also originally from Kosovo, was detained.

In wire-tapped telephone conversations, the suspects were recorded appearing to celebrate last week’s 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.

A phone intercept caught one of the men telling another: “You’ll go straight to paradise because of all the infidels in Venice. Put a bomb on the Rialto.” In another conversation, one of the men said: “I can’t wait to take an oath to Allah. If they let me take the oath, I’m ready to die.”

The suspects had embarked on a training programme, putting themselves through physical exercises and viewing videos of Islamic State extremists explaining how to carry out knife attacks, the prosecutor said…They found a number of pistols as well as evidence that the trio had downloaded information from extremist websites about how to make bombs and carry out attacks with knives.

The undercover operation began last year after one of the men came back from a trip to Syria. All had residency permits and were living in Italy legally. “There was a lot of talk about unconditional support to ISIS. It wasn’t just theory and dogma,” said Mr D’Ippolito. The suspects were close to moving towards “planning and projects”,

Around 300 Kosovars have gone to fight with Islamist groups in Syria and Iraq, including Islamic State and al-Nusra Front.

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