Fourteen arrests, 11 Syrian and 3 Moroccan men, along with the disruption of a flow money meant to back financially the activities of the jihadists in Syria and Iraq. The last major operation against terrorism in Italy demonstrates the existence of a large organization, which was overlooked for political reasons: it was convenient because Al Nusrah was fighting against Assad.
14 men arrested, 11 Syrians and 3 Moroccans, and the halt to a flow of money meant to back financially the activities of jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq. This operation – coordinated by the Anti-Mafia and Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor’s Office, and executed by the Police and the Financial Guard in several Italian regions – was of great importance because it dismantled an extended and efficient network, primarily aimed at supporting the Al Nusra Front, the Syrian Al Qaeda’s branch.
According to the investigators, two different cells were in charge of managing “a huge flow of money through the Hawala system”. The two cells were based in Lombardy and Sardinia, but they had many contacts in other European and non-European countries. They were handling more than 2 million euros: a part was destined to laundering, and the rest to fund terrorists in Syria.
The money used to circulate through a network of illegal money transfers, which were ensuring a safe channel for the laundering and the sending of large sums to Al Nusra. The affiliates of this terrorist organization in charge of keeping the connection with the network of supporters based in Italy were also arrested. We are talking about the same jihadist camp that the West legitimized for years, defining it as “opposition” because, after all, what matters is only one thing: to achieve the goal of overthrowing the Syrian government.
This is enough to realize how this threat, along with its poisonous and dangerous ramifications, has been underestimated in a way that it is difficult to understand, despite the appeals and complaints regarding the proximity of Al Nusra to all international radical groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood and the most cruel Salafist factions, whose followers are currently active in Syria and Iraq.
The impressive amount of cash traveling from one part of Europe to another, and from Europe to the theaters of the jihad in the Middle East, make us figure out how easily these groups are able to move all kinds of goods outside the legal channels. Moreover, they can also avail themselves of a network of accomplices and friends disseminated in every country, without forgetting the economic exploitation of the migrant trafficking on the Balkan route.
One of the arrested individuals explained how they used to work to an infiltrator of the police during the investigation: as soon as the Balkan route was opened, two members of the organization went to Hungary to handle the migrant trafficking. The cars were bought in Italy through their contacts and the drivers were both foreigners and Italians. If one of the drivers was arrested in Austria, he explained, he just had to spend two months in jail before being released.
This operation has a wide dimension and its repercussions on the jihadist front are to be evaluated over time. However, there are two elements that must be highlighted.
First, the arrests in Sassari show us that we must monitor the situation in Sardinia, and in Sassari in particular, because many of the world’s most dangerous jihadists are jailed in the local prison, where they radicalize other inmates. Secondly, money is the source to be thwarted once and for all. It is no longer conceivable that in Europe there is a system to send and receive money that is uncontrolled. It is not understandable that soon after the arrests carried out on the Balkan route, the latter has not been closed down militarily.
However, big operations like the one executed in Italy are not enough to stop jihadism. It is necessary to drain the well until it is empty. No money, no jihad. Jihadist terrorism in Italy exists and now it is an incontrovertible fact.