Italian anti-terrorism units have arrested 14 people for allegedly financing Islamist extremist groups in war-torn Syria, prosecutors said in a statement Thursday.
Law enforcement has “identified a vast network of support for Islamist extremist combatant groups operating in Syria”, the prosecutors said.
The arrests took place in two separate dawn operations, and homes are being searched in the Emilia Romagna, Lombardy, Sardinia, and Veneto regions.
“Joint anti-terrorism, state police and finance guard operation underway to execute 14 arrest warrants on subjects that collaborated to train Islamist extremist combatants. 20 homes searched in various regions,” police tweeted.
In one operation, investigators “dismantled a transnational criminal organization made up of 10 Syrians” that laundered money in Hungary, Italy, Sweden, and Turkey. Two of those suspects have been charged with terrorist financing.
In a parallel operation, police arrested four Syrian and Moroccan “militants… accused of being part of a support cell for the al Qaeda-affiliated organization Jabhat al-Nusra, operating in Syria”.
They are accused of terrorist criminal association, terrorist financing, and illegal financial intermediation.
“These money flows…are impossible to identify via current European Union (EU) and global control measures,” Finance Guard General Alessandro Barbera of the Central Organized Crime Investigation Service (SCICO) told RAI News 24 public broadcaster.
Investigators tracked the illicit money and found out it was being “sent to Syria and used to purchase medicine, clothes, and military components,” Barbera explained.
“We are always on high alert, but these operations show the (anti-terrorism) system is working,” the general concluded.