The Terror Threat to Italy: How Italian Exceptionalism is Rapidly Diminishing
May 4, 2017
Abstract: Italy has not, so far, faced the same level of jihadi terrorist threat as European countries like France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Belgium. This is attributable to a variety of factors, including the fact that Italy does not have as acute a radicalization problem, has seen lower foreign fighter flows to Syria, and has not been as active in the anti-Islamic State coalition. There are limits, however, to this Italian exceptionalism, and there are signs that it is rapidly diminishing. Italy has seen jihadi activity on its soil for decades, including the emergence in recent years of a number of clusters recruiting for and plotting attacks on behalf of the Islamic State. With societal tensions growing because of unprecedented, continued migrant flows from North Africa, the emergence of a second generation of Muslim immigrants that may be more vulnerable to the siren call of Islamist extremism than their parents, and pockets of urban areas starting to resemble the banlieues of France, the threat to Italy from jihadi terrorism is likely to grow more acute.
Unlike France, United Kingdom, and Germany, Italy has not, so far, suffered any major jihadi terrorist attacks. The problem of Islamist violent extremism is not as acute in Italy as in these countries, at least according to the leading indicator of the number of foreign fighters who have traveled to Syria and Iraq. Despite the rebranding of the Islamic State’s propaganda magazine as Rumiyah (Rome) in September 2016 and the group’s belief that Islamic armies will conquer the city near the end-of-times, Italy has been subject to far fewer threats from the group.
This article assesses the case for Italian exceptionalism when it comes to the global jihadi threat by drawing on a survey by the author of hundreds of Italian Muslims, interviews with Italian counterterrorism officials, and a review of open source information on recent terrorism cases. It argues that while the threat picture and degree of radicalization is not as acute as in some other European countries, the threat is nonetheless longstanding, serious, and growing. Italy is grappling with considerable societal challenges, which could lead to greater security challenges in the future.
Italy has a significantly smaller Muslim population (roughly two million) than France, Germany, or the United Kingdom.1 And although the Muslim population is nearly twice the size of Belgium, the numbers in per capita terms are significantly lower.2 a The size of the Muslim community in Italy in both absolute and per capita terms is about the same as Spain, which has seen about the same number of foreign fighters leave for Syria.3
Aside from Rome, Italian Muslims mostly reside in the north, with almost 30% in Lombardy alone. Although a second generation is emerging, the majority of Muslims in Italy are first-generation, male immigrants from North Africa who have come to Italy seeking work. Although many Muslims are low-income, the majority of Italian Muslims, unlike many of their French counterparts, do not live in ghettoized “inner-city” areas afflicted by poverty, crime, and extremist Islamist proselytization.4 While there are worrying signs that Italy is heading in this direction, there are no areas in which the situation has grown as serious as the French banlieuesb like Saint-Denis or the Molenbeek district of Brussels or the Sparkhill district of Birmingham.c
Even though it is hard to quantify and compare levels of such a subjective concept as “integration,” and more research is needed, factors that have contributed to a sense of alienation in some other European countries appear somewhat less present in Italy. In other European countries with much larger second- and third-generation Muslim populations, the children and grandchildren of immigrants tend to have higher expectations than those who first immigrated, but a lack of economic opportunities and discrimination has meant these expectations have often gone unmet, creating a sense of frustration and alienation with mainstream society.5 In contrast, the still largely first-generation Italian Muslim population is still in the process of establishing their position and livelihood and therefore may be less vulnerable to the issues of alienation, identity crisis, and lack of purpose that can make individuals susceptible to radicalization. A majority say they look at the country favorably. According to a survey by the author, 81% of surveyed Italian Muslims claimed to love Italy and its culture.6 d Among the representative sample of Italian Muslims surveyed by the author, unemployment rates amounted to 8%,7 which is less than the country’s 12% overall rate.8 By contrast, British Muslims experience the highest levels of unemployment out of all religious and ethnic groups (12.8% vs. 5.4% of the general population).9 And in contrast to Switzerland and Germany, the Italian state and the representatives of the Muslim community are about to finalize an entente that recognizes Islam as an official religion, granting Muslims valuable social and legal rights.10
According to Italian counterterrorism officials, radicalization is not as significant a problem in Italy as in some other European countries. There are fewer dangerous Islamist extremists on Italian soil in absolute terms than in France, Germany, or Belgium as well as fewer Islamist extremists as a proportion of the Muslim population than those countries.11 There is also substantial anecdotal evidence that some other countries have a more serious radicalization problem. Unlike the reportedly significant numbers in France who refused to observe a moment of silence for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack,12 Italian Muslims have been virtually unanimous in their condemnation of violence and terrorism in the name of Islam.13 Italy has also, so far, been relatively immune to overt displays of Islamist extremism. Italian cities have never experienced the unofficial establishment of sharia patrols by local Muslims14 nor have they dealt with Islamist extremists burning American and Israeli flags in front of their respective embassies.15
A significantly smaller number of foreign fighters have departed from Italy as compared to the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, and Germany. In Italy, 122 individuals have left to join the Islamic State and other jihadi groups,16 a number comparable to the foreign fighter number for Spain.17 By contrast, around 450 have departed from Belgium,18 1,300 from France, 850 from the United Kingdom,19 and over 900 from Germany.20
While Italy has does not have as acute a radicalization problem as France, for example, there are limits to Italian exceptionalism. According to data collected by the author, it is not uncommon to find attitudes associated with violent extremism in Italy’s Muslim community. Out of 440 subjects surveyed by the author between November 2015 and August 2016, 24% (105/440) stated violence in the defense of Islam is justifiable, 10% (44/440) endorsed al-Qa`ida, 13% (57/440) supported the Islamic State, and almost 30% (131/440) agreed with the duty to punish whomever insults Islam and its sacred tenets.21
As emerged in 200 follow-up interviews, the main reasons for accepting violence centered on the notion of a religious duty to defend oppressed fellow Muslims. “[Imagine] you are a Syrian citizen. Who is going to protect you? Assad? Putin? The West? No, only other true Muslims who are obliged to come protect you if you are in danger,” one North African worker in Reggio Emilia told the author.22e For this reason, a Senegalese vendor in Naples described al-Qa`ida and the Islamic State as “the only defenders of oppressed people in Syria and the Middle East.”23 “If it weren’t for them,” said a Somali immigrant in Florence referring to the Islamic State, “there would be much more blood in the area.”24
Interestingly, statistical analysis by the author revealed that in the Italian case, discrimination and outrage at Western foreign policy was not a driving factor in radicalization.25 f This finding may be a reflection of the fact that Italy has played a much lower-profile role in the anti-Islamic State coalition than some other Western countries. Although Italy has provided training and logistical assistance to Peshmerga units in Erbil,26 Iraqi police in Mosul,27 and anti-Islamic State forces in the Libyan city of Misrata,28 it has never been involved in active airstrikes or direct military confrontation.
By contrast, there was a powerful correlation between religiously framed violence and endorsement of an Islamic government. Fifty percent of the subjects who agreed that theocratic rule was better than democracy justified violence in defense of Islam, compared to 15% of those who did not agree with such rule.29
There was also a strong correlation between endorsing violence and belief in the duty to punish offenders of Islam. Eighty percent of those who agreed with such a stance also endorsed violence in the name of God, compared to only 15% in support of violence among those who disagreed with punishing offenders. This suggests that the view that insulting the Prophet Mohammad is unacceptable was a key premise for justifying violence in the name of God.30 The fact that there have been relatively few Islamist terrorist plots and attacks in Italy despite the prevalence of such attitudes are a reminder that it is not possible to draw a straight line between attitudes associated with violent extremism and actual acts of Islamist terrorism. Nevertheless, they provide the context for the current threat environment, which could be negatively transformed in the future by a variety of factors, including greater prioritization of targeting Italy by Islamist terrorist groups like the Islamic State or societal changes in Italy that could harden these sentiments.
Jihadi Activity in Italy
While Italy has largely escaped the scourge of Islamist terrorism, there has been longstanding jihadi activity on Italian soil. As illustrated in a report by Centro Militare di Studi Strategici, which is linked to the Italian Ministry of Defense, there has been a significant jihadi presence in Italy for two decades.31 The country has served as a harbor for members of the GSPC,32 Jamat-Islamiyya,33 the Algerian GIA,34 Ansar al-Islam,35 and al-Qa`ida.36 “Hamza the Libyan,” Usama bin Ladin’s messenger responsible for establishing al-Qa`ida’s network in Europe, resided in Milan, for example.37
From Italy, terrorist cells linked to al-Qa`ida have orchestrated, facilitated, or backed attacks in Casablanca,38 Madrid,39 Baghdad,40 and Peshawar.41 Terrorists and sympathizers have engaged in fundraising activities,42 petty crimes,43 counterfeiting documents,44 arms45 and drugs trafficking,46 and the facilitation of illegal immigration.47 Since 2001, radical proselytization has been detected in 108 mosques, and 11 have been linked to terrorist activities.48 In addition to the 122 fighters who have joined the Islamic State or other jihadi groups in Syria and Iraq, Italy had already exported 29 combatants to Iraq during the Iraqi insurgency after the U.S. invasion in 2003, some of them responsible for suicide operations that resulted in dozens of casualties.49
Italy has seen more than 20 jihadi plots and attacks since 9/11. Very few of the plots were at an advanced stage, and none of the attacks caused fatalities.50 Among these, the country experienced six minor, unsuccessful attacks by individuals with no contacts in terrorist groups in Milan, Agrigento, Brescia, and Modena that featured no injuries or casualties. The only partially successful attack occurred in 2009 in Milan at the Santa Barbara Carabinieri Station when Mohammed Game attempted to detonate a rudimental device, but only he and a guard were ultimately injured.51 Of the thwarted plots since 2001, the most well-known schemes included the 2001 al-Qa`ida-inspired failed chemical attack on the U.S. Embassy in Rome, which featured a plan to release cyanide concealed in tomato cans into the building’s vent system;52 the 2005 GSPC-inspired plot to crash a ship filled with explosives in Naples’ port;53 the 2006 plot by a cell associated with al-Qa`ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) to strike Bologna’s Dome and Milan’s subway;54 the 2012 Islamic State in Iraq-inspired plot by Mohammed Jarmoune to target Milan’s Jewish Synagogue;55 the 2016 Islamic State-inspired plan by Moutaharrik Abderrahim to carry out a suicide bombing operation at the Vatican;56 the 2016 plot by two Afghan citizens allegedly linked to al-Qa`ida and the Islamic State to attack the Colosseum and the Circus Maximus in Rome;57 and the 2017 Islamic State-inspired alleged plan to attack Venice’s famous Rialto Bridge.58
Except for the 2007 Ponte Felcino case in which investigators confiscated chemical substances allegedly meant for chemical warfare,g since 2001 no weapons or explosive devices were found in any of the Islamist terrorism plots thwarted by authorities.59 The thwarted plots were mostly aspirational and not far advanced in their planning largely because legal preventive measures in Italy grant officials the right to execute environmental monitoring (e.g. wiretapping) and intervene at early stages of presumed criminal activities. In addition to the jihadi activity detailed above, there have been hundreds of arrests and deportations linked to terrorism investigations since 2001.60
Italian Foreign Fighters
Before the recent wave of departures to Syria and Iraq, a few dozen foreign fighters had left Italy for theaters of jihad in the Balkans in the 1990s and in Iraq following the breakout of the war in 2003.h During these first two waves, aspiring combatants gravitated to a mosque network (principally in Milan) and displayed preexisting ties with international actors. By contrast, Italian foreign fighters joining the Islamic State have not necessarily been frequent mosque-goers. Their radicalization process mostly occurred online, and their ties with international actors were established through virtual communities. Overall, social marginalization does not seem to be a notable driver of foreign fighter mobilization, as most fighters have been employed and at least outwardly integrated.61 Unlike in the past, Italian converts62 and women have been among the departees.63 Attracted by the caliphate’s lure of a perfect Islamic society, several entire families have decided to join the Islamic State from Italy, too.64
In addition to Giuliano Delnevo, the first Italian foreign fighter to perish in Syria, the two most renowned combatants are Anas el-Abboubi and Maria Giulia Sergio. Born in Morocco in 1992, el-Abboubi grew up in a small mountain town near Brescia. His family was integrated and respected in the local community, and Anas aspired to become a famous rapper. After radicalizing online, he created the Italian branch of Sharia4Italy, establishing contacts with other Western and international jihadis.65 Anas was arrested in June 2013 for plotting attacks against Brescia’s Goito military base, its train station, and one of the town’s bridges.66 Released from prison for lack of evidence, Anas then left for Syria in July 2013,67 where he is still believed to be fighting.68
Another prominent Italian foreign fighter in Syria is Maria Giulia Sergio (Fatima), a convert from the Naples area residing in Milan who became radicalized online through Skype conversations with Haik Bushra, a female university student in Bologna.69 Fatima, who was 27 at the time, became obsessed with going to Syria and married Aldo Kobuzi, an Albanian wannabe fighter, at the Treviglio mosque on September 17, 2014.70 On September 21, the two traveled to Istanbul, reached the Syrian border at Gaziantep on the following day, and are presumed to have entered Syria on October 2, 2014.71 Once in the country, Fatima gained attention for her enraged remarks and threats to Italy. “Here we behead unbelievers … Jihad for Allah’s sake is a mandatory duty and who cannot come here [must wage] Jihad in daarakufr [the land of misbelief, that is] killing the infidels!”72
Despite these plots, there have been relatively few conspiracies to attack targets in Italy. As Lorenzo Vidino’s research has revealed, the key explanation for this is that al-Qa`ida and its affiliates mainly used Italy as a logistical platform.73 Terrorist cells that gravitated to the mosque network (especially in Milan) were hierarchically organized and had physical links with other international actors. Underground recruitment was carefully planned and selective. Further, while plots to strike Italy existed, terrorist cells mostly gathered intelligence and resources destined for terrorist operations perpetrated abroad.
The Italian public began to grow concerned over the threat of jihadi terrorism in the wake of the Islamic State’s deadly attacks in Europe. The Islamic State has made direct threats to Italy more frequently than other jihadi terrorist organizations now or in the past. It is true that in 2002 and 2003 bin Ladin himself threatened retaliation against U.S. allies, including Italy in the list of the mentioned countries.74 While the Islamic State has threatened countries like France, Germany, and the United Kingdom more prolifically, it is nevertheless ironic that the group has repeatedly threatened Italy at a time when Rome’s involvement in the Middle East has been marginal. Italy has not been conducting active airstrikes like the United Kingdom and France nor has the country flown reconnaissance sorties as Germany has.
One explanation for why Italy is mentioned so many times as a target in Islamic State propaganda is that “Rome” or “Rumiyah” has been used by the group as a catch-all term for Western Christendom. While not all these threats are designed to explicitly single out Italy, they serve to heighten the threat to the country. The Islamic State has been animated by a prophecy attributed to the Prophet Mohammed that predicts the conquest of Rome by Islamic armies near the end of time.i And in this context, threats against the home of Christianity serve an additional function of energizing and motivating its hardline support base around the world. The growing number of Islamic State attacks on Christians around the world and past plots targeting the Vatican suggest the Eternal City will continue to be a target.
Rome has been mentioned several times by the leaders of the Islamic State. In July 2014, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi released an audiotape telling followers “you will conquer Rome and own the world, if Allah wills.”75 In September of that year, after the United States launched air strikes in Syria, then Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani stated in an audiotape, “With Allah’s permission, we will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women, by the permission of Allah, the Exalted. This is His promise to us.”76
In the same vein, in February 2015, the Islamic State released a video of the beheading of 21 Egyptian Copts on a Libyan beach. One of the fighters warned on camera, “We are here, south of Rome. Soon we will conquer Rome with God’s will.”77 Such warnings were undoubtedly also designed to pressure Italy not to deepen its involvement in Libya. Italy has so far only been involved in logistical support to recognized anti-Islamic State forces.78 In 2015, a video featuring executions and beheadings was specially subtitled in Italian and stated, “You have declared war on me with the misbelieving alliance … the more you will fight, the more you will suffer.”79 One of the most explicit threats was made in April 2016 when an English-speaking fighter, featured in an Islamic State video showing footage of previous attacks, stated, “If it was Paris yesterday, and today Brussels, only Allah knows where it will be tomorrow. Maybe it will be in London or Berlin or Rome.”80
Pro-Islamic State Clusters in Italy
Whereas extremist networks in Italy in the decade before 9/11 were composed to a significant degree of jihadis who were radicalized before they moved to Italy, they have become increasingly populated by individuals radicalized inside Italy.81 As a series of articles in this publication has illustrated, throughout Europe clusters of extremists that have congregated around charismatic radical preachers have played an outsized role in recruiting individuals to travel to join the Islamic State or encouraging them to carry out terrorist activity in its name. This is true of Italy, even though the available evidence suggests these clusters are smaller and more localized than those that centered on extremist proselytizers such as Khalid al-Zerkani in Brussels,82 Abu Walaa in northwest Germany,83 and Anjem Choudary in London.84
Several small clusters of extremists have been detected in Lombardy and Veneto, making these regions arguably the epicenter of pro-Islamic State activity in Italy. One influential radicalizer was Musa Cerantonio, an Australian imam of Italian origin who preached in Brescia and Bergamo in August 2012.85 He hit the headlines in the summer of 2014 when he posted a picture of himself waving the Islamic State flag in front of San Peter Dome, stating, “Allah willing, we will destroy the Vatican.”86 He was eventually arrested on charges of terrorism in the Philippines.87
Another radical preacher was Bilal Bosnic, a Bosnian linked to the Islamic State who previously toured northern Italy to recruit combatants for the Syrian front. Bosnic preached in mosques in the cities of Pordenone, Cremona, and Bergamo in July 2011. Particularly important were his remarks from a 2014 interview confirming both the presence of Italian foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq and the caliphate’s interest in Italy’s recruiting and ideological potential.88 Imam Bosnic was eventually arrested in Bosnia in September 2014 on charges of being an Islamic State recruiter.89
Bosnic’s efforts in northern Italy helped establish a small cluster supportive of the Islamic State in Veneto. Through the help of one of his acolytes, Ajhan Veapi, Bosnic reportedly indoctrinated and recruited Ismar Mesinovic and Minifer Karameleski, two Balkan workers residing in the town of Belluno in Veneto.90 Officials later ascertained this cluster of extremists was linked to actors in Macedonia, namely Saban Asanoski and Adisen Mauslijoski, who traveled with the Belluno group to Syria. After reaching Syria in December 2013, Mesinovic was killed while fighting, and Karameleski is still presumed to be there.91j
Similarly, although investigations are still in progress, authorities are assessing potential ties between Bosnic’s network and an alleged Balkan terrorist cell that was dismantled in Venice in March 2017. This newer cluster was composed of four Kosovar citizens, all employed and residing in Venice’s historic center. According to prosecutors, upon the return of Fisnik Bekaj—one of the cell’s members who is believed to have fought for the Islamic State92—from Syria in 2016, the group began to “self-train” by consulting Islamic State content online and expressed a desire to pledge allegiance to the group. Investigators believe the cell aspired to launch attacks in Venice because in one intercepted conversation they mentioned the attaining of paradise by bombing the Rialto Bridge.93
An Islamic State-linked cell, which was dismantled in Venice in March 2017, discussed attacking the city’s Rialto Bridge (pictured here), according to Italian investigators. (Reinhard Dirscherl/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
Italian authorities have detected more recruitment activity for the Islamic State in Lombardy than any other region. The provincial capital Milan has long been a center of jihadi activity with one garage-turned-mosque—the Islamic Cultural Institute—being labeled “the main al Qaeda station house in Europe used to facilitate the movement of weapons, men and money across the world” by the United States Treasury Department shortly after 9/11.94 k Despite the dismantling of al-Qa`ida-linked cells in the years that followed, the region has supplied in more recent times the Islamic State with more than one-third of all Italian foreign fighters.95
Although they are not believed to still be active,96 there were four clusters in Lombardy linked to jihadi groups, including the Islamic State in Syria, which caused Italian security services particular concern. One was the Cologno Monzese cluster, which was formed by a dozen Syrian citizens who radicalized following the breakout of the Syrian civil war. After engaging in acts of intimidation against Christian Syrians in Italy, at least five members of the group departed to join forces with the Free Syrian Army in 2012 and then with Jabhat al-Nusra in 2013,97 forming the “Suleiman Battalion.”98 While the group’s leader was filmed executing prisoners in Syria, those who remained in Italy have been accused of recruiting fighters.99
Another was the Inzago cluster, which gravitated around female Italian convert Fatima, her husband Kobuzi, and their two extended families. After converting herself and her family to Islam in 2008, Fatima left for Syria with her husband in 2014. During her stay in the caliphate, she has been allegedly trained to manage weapons and has fiercely pressured her family to move to Syria.100 Indeed, from Milan and from Grosseto, Tuscany, Fatima’s and Aldo’s families were allegedly preparing their departure for the Middle East when they were arrested in July 2015.101
A third was the Varese-Lecco cluster, which was composed of five Moroccan citizens and one female Italian convert. After radicalizing, Alice Brignoli and her husband, Mohamed Koraichi, entered Syria with their three children. Their friends and relatives Abderahhim Moutaharrik (a former kickboxing champion); his wife, Salma Bencharki; Koraichi’s sister Wafa; and Abderrahmane Khachia, brother of Ousamma Khachia who died in 2015 in Iraq,l were apprehended before they could take action. In April 2016, Moutaharrik was instructed through an audio message sent via Whatsapp by an Islamic State “sheikh” to strike Italy.m As authorities demonstrated, he was planning to target the Vatican.102 Moutaharrik was arrested in April 2016 and was sentenced to six years in prison in February 2017.103 This appears to be the first case known to Italian authorities in which the Islamic State has attempted to direct an attack in Italy over encryption apps.
Finally, the Brescia cluster was made up of four Kosovar citizens, whose leading figure was allegedly Samet Ishmiti, a former laborer from Brescia who radicalized online in 2011.104 Even though it is not clear whether the group had real intentions to attack Italy, photos showed its members holding weapons while stating, “Francis will be the last Pope.” What concerned authorities most were the cluster’s proven, direct, personal ties with Lavdrim Muhaxheri,105 aka “The Balkans’ Butcher,” one of the Islamic State’s most brutal commanders and leader of the Balkan brigade in Syria.106 n
Even though these clusters were mostly geared toward recruiting foreign fighters to join jihadi efforts in Syria and Iraq, some of their members did plan to bring terror to Italy. Others plotting terrorist attacks in the Lombardy region appear to have been radicalized online instead of being part of Islamic State-linked networks. One example was a pair of alleged terrorist plotters arrested in Brescia in July 2015. Italian investigators believe Briki Lassaad, a Tunisian extremist, and the Pakistani Muhammed Waqas were planning to attack a U.S. military base located in Ghedi and other targets in Italy, including the police. What particularly concerned Italian authorities was the fact that the duo had stable jobs and were seemingly well integrated into Italian society.o In 2016, the two were sentenced to six years in prison on charges of terrorism.107
The Threat Trajectory
Italy does not at this time face the same scale of threat as some other European countries like France, Belgium, Germany, and the United Kingdom. As outlined, this reality is likely due to a variety of factors, including a lower degree of radicalization inside the Muslim community, less anger among Italian Muslims over the country’s foreign policy, and the fact that notwithstanding the repeated mentions of Rumiyah in Islamic State propaganda, Italy is not a priority target of international terrorist groups. Just as may have been the case with al-Qa`ida in the years before and after 9/11, it is possible that one factor making Italy a lower priority target is that jihadis continue to see it as a useful logistical hub. Furthermore, the governmental powers granted by Article 270 of the penal code may have indeed discouraged aspiring jihadis. Seizure of assets, mobility and occupational restrictions, and direct expulsions from Italy may, in fact, prove to be effective preventive measures, particularly if aspiring jihadis are first-generation immigrants seeking better conditions for their families.
There are a number of indicators, however, suggesting the threat could grow worse. Although racism and perceived inequality have not been significant drivers in relation to support for Islamist violence in Italy, 51% of Muslims in Italy questioned by this author did feel discriminated against. Likewise, 64% stated they have no voice, and 82% believed there is a media war to discredit Islam.108 Such attitudes provide opportunities for radical proselytizers.
Furthermore, Italy’s economy has still not recovered from the 2008 economic crisis, and it now finds itself overwhelmed with managing the humanitarian crisis, which in 2016 alone brought almost 200,000 migrants to its shores.109 Resentment against the new arrivals and fears over terrorism has seen a sharp rise in anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiments. Most worryingly, there are signs the experiences faced by the Italian Muslim community is moving in the direction of France. Italian cities that host large Muslim communities are starting to see the ghettoization of Muslim immigrants in certain neighborhoods. Examples include Via Padova in Milan, Torpignattara in Rome, and Machera in Turin, which, increasingly afflicted by high unemployment, crime, and poverty, could turn into something comparable to the French banlieues.
As the children of a first generation of immigrants who came to Italy to work come of age, there is concern second-generation Italian Muslims might also suffer from the identity crisis and feeling of alienation that have afflicted their counterparts in countries like France and the United Kingdom. In an increasingly polarized society, extreme Islamist ideology might offer a sense of meaning and purpose sought by those who feel victimized and frustrated.
In these circumstances, there is concern jihadi terrorist groups will attempt to worsen societal tensions by launching terrorist attacks in Italy. Given the surge in migrant flows to Italy from Libya, there is concern the Islamic State could infiltrate operatives into Italy amongst the larger refugee flows from the Middle East and North Africa. In 2016, 171,000 irregular migrants arrived in Italy from Libya and North Africa.110 One of those who came back was Ben Nasr Mehdi, a Tunisian explosive expert linked to al-Qa`ida,111 who had been previously incarcerated after being convicted of terrorism offences in Italy and deported to Tunisia. In October 2015, Mehdi attempted to reenter Italy by sea from Libya with fake credentials seeking political asylum, but was discovered and deported back to Tunisia.112 Italian security services suspect Mehdi is a key figure for facilitating jihadis’ journeys towards Syria and Iraq.113 While thus far only about 17 foreign fighters who fought in Syria and Iraq have returned to Italy,114 the case of Mehdi highlighted concern that Italian or other foreign fighters migrating to Europe from Syria, Iraq or Libya, as pressure mounts on the Islamic State, might launch attacks in Italy.
There is also concern that irregular migrants arriving in Italy might be vulnerable to the message of radical proselytizers inside Italy, because of unmet expectations and unstable circumstances within rescue centers. A case in point is Anis Amri, who carried out the December 2016 Berlin truck attack. Amri was radicalized in prison in Sicily after arriving there as a young asylum seeker and being jailed for starting a fire at his refugee shelter.115 Aware that prisons can serve as venues for radicalization, Italian authorities are currently monitoring 400 detainees presumed at risk of radicalization.116 It is also likely the clusters linked to the Islamic State will try to capitalize off the growing jihadi footprint in the Balkans to expand in Italy. As outlined in this piece, several recent counter-terrorism operations in Italy have centered on Balkan nationals living in Italy. As is well recognized jihadi networks operate across national borders, complicating the task of European security and police services. Italian investigators are increasingly seeing linkages between radicals in Italy and other European countries, notably Germany.p
Al-Qa`ida remains part of the threat picture in Italy,117 as the dismantling of two cells in Puglia and Sardinia demonstrated.q In short, Italy faces a complex, growing, and multi-generational threat from jihadi terrorism. While Italian security agencies have so far been successful at breaking up plots, they may be put under significant strain in the future. CTC
Michele Groppi is a Ph.D. student at King’s College London focusing on international relations and defense and security studies, with a major emphasis on Islamist radicalization in Europe and Italy. Follow @groppi_michele
[a] Although one might intuitively expect that lower proportions of Muslim citizens would reduce the general population’s “fear of the other” and favor processes of integration, perception of Muslims in mainstream Italian culture ranks amongst the most negative in Europe, in spite of their relative minor per capita presence compared to some other E.U. countries. According to a 2016 Pew survey, almost 70% of surveyed Italians saw Muslims negatively. Such results are consistent with data collected by the author between July and December 2016, which confirmed Italian non-Muslims’ negative views of fellow Muslim citizens and their overwhelmingly shared fear (70%) that acts of jihadi terrorism will occur in Italy as well. For more, see Richard Wike, Bruce Stokes, and Katie Simmons, “Europeans Fear Wave of Refugees Will Mean More Terrorism, Fewer Jobs,” Pew Research Center, July 11, 2016. The statistical data on the Italian Muslim community and Italian non-Muslim responses in this essay is taken from the author’s Ph.D. dissertation at King’s College London, Defence Studies Programme. The dissertation will be completed soon and will be entitled “Islamist radicalization in Italy: Myth or Nightmare?”
[b] The term banlieues in French literally means suburbs. But in France, the term has come to also mean poor immigrant areas, with inner-city dynamics, on the peripheries of many of the country’s cities and towns.
[c] This observation is based on published accounts of the challenges facing these areas. The author is not aware of any parts of Italy facing the same degree of challenges.
[d] Echoing similar remarks from Milan, Rome, and Naples, a Moroccan worker in Turin thanked Allah for “being in Italy and not in France. There [France], women cannot wear the veil, they have to undress if they go to the beach, Muslims are discriminated against, are poor, and the French government does not give a damn about them. Here, we can work, have a family, and be Muslim. For this, we love Italy.” Author interview, Muslim resident of Turin, May 2016.
[e] Along the same lines, two barbers in Milan and a Pakistani family man in Naples, respectively, explained the sentiment as such: “There are lots of crazy people out there. If you decide to provoke them, it’s your own risk because you know by now how bad insulting the Prophet is;” “Just like in your family, you have to discipline your children and punish them if they persevere in their mistakes; you have to do the same here. If you decide to write offensive caricatures [about Mohammad], and I tell you that insults me once, twice, three times, four times, etc., then maybe, if I slap you, you stop.” Author interview, anonymous barbers in Milan, February 2016; author interview, anonymous Pakistani worker in Naples, May 2016.
[f] Although 73% of surveyed Muslims agreed with the statement that Western foreign policy toward Islamic countries is and has been unjust and frustrating, the variable the author labeled “outrage at Western foreign policy” in the regression models could not be statistically associated to support for Islamist-framed violence. That is, resenting Western foreign policy was not a significant factor in shaping attitude on endorsing violence in defense of faith, punishment of those who insult Islam, and support for al-Qa`ida and the Islamic State.
[g] An al-Qa`ida-inspired cell gravitating around the local mosque was dismantled in Ponte Felcino, close to Perugia. At the time, investigators believed that the group, headed by the Moroccan imam Mostapha el-Korchi, was engaged in terrorist training (i.e. weapons use, one-on-one physical fighting, assembly of rudimental devices, etc.). The targets and the logistics of potential attacks remain unclear, but officials stated they averted imminent attacks allegedly meant to strike Morocco or Italy. For more, see “Al Qaeda: a Perugia una ‘scuola del terrore,’” Repubblica, July 21, 2007, and “A casa dell’imam l’occorrente per ordigni,” Corriere della Sera, July 22, 2007.
[h] A negligible number (only around a dozen fighters) left for Afghanistan to wage jihad against the Soviets. Around 30 fighters left for Iraq after the break of the 2003 war, and 122 subjects joined the Islamic State. This trend shows a progression in the involvement of Italian fighters in the global jihadi movement recruiting combatants for international theaters of jihad. Author interview, Claudio Galzerano, director of the International Anti-Terrorism Department in Italy’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, April 2017.
[i] Prophecies related to the conquest of Rome are mentioned in various hadith. See, for example, https://sunnah.com/muslim/54/50.
[j] The whereabouts of the other two fighters remain unclear.
[k] One imam at the mosque in the 1990s, Anwar Shabaan, a member of the Egyptian group Gamma Islamiya went on to lead the Mujahideen Brigade in Bosnia during the civil war there. Lorenzo Vidino, “The Evolution of Jihadism in Italy: Rise in Homegrown Radicals,” CTC Sentinel 6:11 (2013).
[l] His affiliation to any specific group remains unclear.
[m] The investigating judge in the case described the sheikh as a “very important person in the terrorist organization.” Bartolini, “Reclutatori Isis, combattenti e aspiranti kamikaze: il grande romanzo nero del jihad è in Lombardia;” Giovanna Trinchella, “Terrorismo, le intercettazioni – ‘Caro fratello, ti mando il poema bomba’. Nel mirino l’ambasciata di Israele a Roma,” Fatto Quotidiano, April 28, 2016; Luigi Ferrarella, “Esplora il significato del termine: Isis, così dava ordini lo sceicco: ‘Non venire in Siria, fatti esplodere lì,’” Corriere della Sera, April 29, 2016.
[n] The Balkan Brigade is an alleged battalion within the Islamic State that is mainly composed of foreign fighters from the Balkans. Nicknamed the “Balkans’ Butcher,” Lavdrim Muhaxheri became the battalion’s top commander due to his brutality executing prisoners. He is now believed to have returned to Kosovo with the intent to bring war on European soil. For more, see Marco Pacini, “Il ritorno del boia nei Balcani,” Espresso, December 26, 2016.
[o] Their desire to launch attacks was shown by comments on their Twitter accounts. “We are in your streets. We are everywhere. We are focalizing our targets, waiting for the X hour.” For more, see “Terrorismo, due arresti a Brescia. Gli investigatori: ‘Volevano colpire base militare di Ghedi,’” Repubblica, July 22, 2015.
[p] One example was the 2015 arrest of Abdul Rahman Nauroz, a Kurd-Iraqi citizen residing in Merano, close to Bolzano, on charges of being an Islamic State recruiter. Investigations later revealed that while benefiting from asylum status in Bolzano, Nauroz had allegedly established contacts with radical figures in France, Norway, and Germany. His contacts in Cologne and those in Turkey allegedly allowed him to facilitate foreign fighters’ arrival to Syria. Another example was Nadir Benchorfi, who was arrested December 2016 before he could allegedly target a large shopping mall in Lombardy and was linked to a cell composed of 25 German foreign fighters he allegedly previously met when living in Germany. Finally, there was Berlin truck attacker Anis Amri, who was shot dead in Sesto San Giovanni close to Milan after attacking the German capital. In April 2017, Italian police announced they had helped German authorities break up a terrorist cell in Berlin linked to Amri. Two members of the cell—Lutumba Nkanga, 27, from Congo, and Soufiane Amri (not a family relation to the truck attacker), 22, from Morocco—were arrested in late December 2016 while transiting through Italy. Nkanga is still in custody, while Soufiane Amri was deported to Germany. For more, see Jimmy Milanese, “Quei legami tra la cellula jihadista di Merano e gli attentatori di Parigi,” Giornale, November 27, 2015; Bartolini, “Reclutatori Isis, combattenti e aspiranti kamikaze: il grande romanzo nero del jihad e’ in Lombardia;” “Terrorismo, contatti con Amri Un arresto e un espulso in Italia,” Corriere della Sera, April 28, 2017; “Terrorismo, un arresto e un’espulsione a Brindisi: ‘Militanti dell’Isis, avevano contatti con Berlino e con Anis Amri,’” Fatto Quotidiano, April 28, 2017; and “Italy claims to break up Berlin terror cell linked to Christmas market attacker,” The Local Deutschland, April 28, 2017.
[q] In 2015, a cell linked to al-Qa`ida members in Pakistan and Afghanistan was dismantled in Olbia, Sardinia. From the Italian island, the cell’s members allegedly orchestrated the 2009 Peshawar attack and may have planned to target tourists and pilgrims at the Vatican in 2010. For more, see “Terrorismo islamico, scoperta cellula di Al Qaeda a Olbia,” Nuova Sardegna, April 24, 2015. In 2013, an al-Qa`ida-linked network was discovered in Puglia, in the small city of Andria. With ties to international actors, the cell was engaged in fundraising, recruiting, and the planning of attacks against local targets. In 2016, three people linked to international al-Qa`ida operatives and presumed to be preparing for attacks in Italy were arrested in Bari and Milan. The other two members of the cell had already left for Afghanistan. These cases illustrate that al-Qa`ida-aligned jihadis now have a presence in Italy beyond the group’s historical network in Milan. “Terrorismo, volevano colpire il Circo Massimo e il Colosseo: fermati tre jihadisti tra Bari e Milano;” Elisabetta Povoledo, “Terrorist Cell May Have Sought to Attack the Vatican, Italian Officials Say,” New York Times, April 24, 2015.
 Conrad Hackett, “5 Facts About the Muslim Population In Europe,” Pew Research Center, July 19, 2016.
 Francesca Schianchi, “Dall’Italia sono partiti 110 foreign fighter per combattere con l’Isis,” Stampa, January 6, 2017; Vasco Cotovio and Chandrika Narayan, “Spain arrests 7 suspected of sending guns, bomb materials to ISIS,” CNN, February 7, 2016.
 Michele Groppi, “Il Ritratto del Jihadista lumbard,” Limes: Chi ha paura del Califfo, May Issue (2015): pp. 191-200; Michele Groppi, “Dossier sulla comunità islamica italiana: indice di radicalizzazione,” Centro Militare di Studi Strategiciation.
 For more information on second-generation Muslims in Europe and issues of identity crisis and radicalization, see Olivier Roy, Globalized Islam: The Search for a New Ummah (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004); Olivier Roy, “Islamic Terrorist Radicalisation in Europe,” European Islam: Challenges for society and public policy (2007): pp. 52-60; Samir Amghar, Amel Boubekeur, and Michael Emerson (eds.), European Islam: Challenges for Society and Public Policy (Brussels: Centre for European Policy Studies, 2007), pp. 55-56; Farhad Khosrokhavar, “Radicalization through religion,” (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan, 2013), pp. 1-8; Paul Cruickshank, “Al Qaeda: the current threat,” (Pocket Issue, 2008): pp. 61-62; Marc Sageman, Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-First Century, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008): pp. 68-69; and Robert Leiken, “Europe’s Angry Muslims,” Foreign Affairs, July/August 2005.
 Groppi, “Islamist radicalization in Italy: Myth or Nightmare?”
 Raffaele Ricciardi, “Disoccupazione stabile al 12% dicembre, risale quella giovanile: oltre il 40%,” Repubblica, January 31, 2017.
 “Employment Opportunities for Muslims in the UK,” Women and Equalities Committee, U.K. Parliament, August 11, 2016.
 “Swiss Against Recognizing Islam As An Official Religion,” Swiss Info, November 7, 2016; Alexander Gorlach, “Why Islam Gets Second-Class Status in Germany,” New York Times, December 15, 2016; “Islam, firmato Patto con associazioni di musulmani. Viminale: ‘Verso l’intesa,'” Repubblica, February 1, 2017.
 Author interview, Claudio Galzerano, director of the International Anti-Terrorism Department in Italy’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, April 2017.
 John Henley, “France Must Reach Out to Its Disillusioned Young Muslims, Says Director of the Class,” Guardian, January 17, 2015.
 Goffredo Buccini, “L’Imam di Firenze: ‘Anche i terroristi nell’album di famiglia dell’Islam,” Corriere della Sera, January 13, 2017; “Attentati a Parigi, a Roma e Milano manifestazioni dei musulmani contro Isis con slogan #notinmyname. ‘E’ un dovere condannare violenza e terrorismo,’” Fatto Quotidiano, November 21, 2015; “Terrorismo, musulmani in piazza a Milano contro l’Is: ‘La violenza non ci appartiene,’” Repubblica, November 19, 2015.
 “Locals Concerned as ‘Sharia Police’ Patrol Streets of German City,” Deutsche Welle, September 5, 2014.
 “Protesters Burn Flags Outside US embassy in London,” Telegraph, September 14, 2012.
 Vasco Cotovio and Chandrika Narayan, “Spain arrests 7 suspected of sending guns, bomb materials to ISIS,” CNN, February 7, 2016.
 Pieter Van Ostayen, “Belgian Radical Networks and the Road to the Brussels Attacks,” CTC Sentinel 9:6 (2016).
 Jean-Charles Brisard, “Stats Minint 10/02 #djihad #Syrie #Irak 2288 français/résidents: 695 sur place,+200 retours, 173 transits, 980 velléités de départ, 240 tués,” Twitter, February 12, 2017. “Who are Britain’s Jihadists?” BBC, February 22, 2017.
 Daniel H. Heinke, “German Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq: The Updated Data and Its Implications,” CTC Sentinel 10:3 (2017).
 Groppi, “Islamist radicalization in Italy: Myth or Nightmare?”
 Author interview, anonymous North African workers in Reggio Emilia, June 2016.
 Author interview, anonymous Senegalese worker in Naples, May 2016.
 Author interview, anonymous Somali immigrant in Florence, June 2016.
 Groppi, “Islamist Radicalization in Italy: Myth or Nightmare?”
 Francesco Semprini, “Tra i soldati in Iraq: ‘Così addestriamo i peshmerga,’” Stampa, October 30, 2015.
 Gianpaolo Cadalanu, “Così l’Italia addestra le forze irachene che si preparano alla battaglia di Mosul,” Repubblica, May 10, 2016.
 “Libia, l’Italia invia un contingente di 300 uomini. E con gli alleati condanna attacchi ai pozzi,” Repubblica, September 12, 2016.
 Groppi, “Islamist Radicalization in Italy: Myth or Nightmare?”
 Michele Groppi, “Dossier sulla comunità islamica italiana: indice di radicalizzazione,” Centro Militare di Studi Strategici, pp. 96-158.
 “Milano: arrestati sospetti terroristi islamici,” Corriere della Sera, June 6, 2007.
 Biagio Marsiglia, “Un centro di preghiera che fa paura,” Corriere della Sera, October 9, 2009.
 Antonio Corbo, “Napoli crocevia di terroristi,” Repubblica, July 13, 2005.
 “Milano, arrestati 4 uomini: ‘Sono legati ad Al Qaeda,’” Repubblica, April 1, 2003.
 Giusi Fasano, “Al Qaeda voleva colpire a Bologna,” Corriere della Sera, June 6, 2002.
 “Varese, arrestato l’Imam della moschea,” Corriere della Sera, August 18, 2008.
 “Stragi di Madrid, arresti a Milano,” Repubblica, June 8, 2004.
 Giulio Meotti, “Italian Jihad,” Foglio, February 26, 2009.
 “Strage di Peshawar organizzata a Olbia,” Repubblica, October 28, 2015.
 “Finanziamenti ai terroristi islamici: 5 arresti in Italia, Francia e Gran Bretagna,” Giornale, May 12, 2010.
 Lorenzo Vidino, “The Buccinasco Pentiti: A Unique Case of Radicalization,” Terrorism and Political Violence 23:3 (2011): pp. 398-418.
 Lorenzo Vidino, “Islam, Islamism, and Jihadism in Italy,” Current Trends in Islamist Ideology 7 (2008).
 “Traffico d’armi verso l’Iran, 7 arresti,” Corriere della Sera, March 3, 2010.
 Armando Spataro, “La magistratura italiana di fronte al terrorismo interno ed internazionale dagli anni di piombo alla war on terror- Dati sulle sentenze di condanna pronunciate in Italia successivamente all’11 settembre 2001, per reati di terrorismo internazionale o per reati collegati al terrorismo internazionale,” In Aldo Celentano, La Magistratura (2008), Fratelli Begliomini: Roma pp. 20-55.
 “Terrorismo, arrestati a Milano 6 fiancheggiatori di Al Qaeda,” Repubblica, June 24, 2003.
 Groppi, “Dossier sulla comunità islamica italiana: indice di radicalizzazione.”
 “Kamikaze si fa esplodere contro caserma, due feriti. I soldati evitano la strage,” Giorno, October 12, 2009.
 “Smantellata cellula del terrorismo islamico,” Repubblica, April 5, 2001.
 “Il Viminale espelle un terrorista ‘Progettò una nave-bomba,’” Repubblica, December 19, 2010.
 “Preparavano attentati al metro. Ordinanze per 5 magrebini,” Corriere della Sera, June 4, 2009.
 “Progettava attentato alla sinagoga di Milano, arrestato per terrorismo marocchino 20enne,” Corriere della Sera, March 15, 2012.
 Emilio Randacio, “Terrorismo, 6 arresti in Lombardia. I pm: ‘Tra gli obiettivi Vaticano e ambasciata Israele a Roma,” Repubblica, April 28, 2016; Alessandra Benignetti, “Moutaharrik, chiesti 6 anni e mezzo per il pugile dell’Isis che voleva colpire il Vaticano,” Giornale, February 6, 2017.
 “Terrorismo, volevano colpire il Circo Massimo e il Colosseo: fermati tre jihadisti tra Bari e Milano,” Messaggero, May 10, 2016.
 “‘Metti una bomba a Rialto e guadagni subito il paradiso.’ Venezia, sgominata cellula jihadista,” Corriere della Sera, March 30, 2017.
 Author interview, Claudio Galzerano, April 2017.
 Ibid.; Groppi, “Dossier sulla comunità islamica italiana: indice di radicalizzazione.”
 Lorenzo Vidino, Home-Grown Jihadism in Italy: Birth, Development and Radicalization Dynamics (Milan: Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale, 2014).
 Virginia Piccolillo, “Giovani e convertiti, chi sono i 50 italiani dell’Isis,” Corriere della Sera, August 25, 2014.
 “Ma i foreign fighters sono più di 100. Tra loro anche ragazze insospettabili,” Tempo, September 21, 2015.
 Alessandro Bartolini, “Da Lecco alla Siria, famiglia si converte all’Isis e sparisce: ‘Dicevano che erano pronti a morire in nome di Allah,’” Fatto Quotidiano, March 17, 2016; “Terrorismo, ‘soldato’ dell’Isis parte da Bresso con la famiglia per l’Iraq,” Giorno, November 18, 2016.
 Gian Micalessin, “La guerra santa di Al Italy il ‘bresciano,’” Giornale, June 21, 2014.
 “Terrorismo, preso un ventenne marocchino: ‘Era pronto per fare un attentato a Brescia,’” Repubblica, June 12, 2013.
 Marta Serafini, “Chi è Anas el Abboubi, il rapper bresciano citato nei leaks di Isis,” Corriere della Sera, March 11, 2016.
 Groppi, “Il Ritratto del Jihadista lumbard.”
 Fausto Biloslavo, “Califfato, dieci indagati in Italia nel mirino il clan di lady Jihad,” Giornale, July 1, 2015.
 “Chi e’ Maria Giulia Sergio alias Fatima: l’italiana convertita all’Islam sostenitrice dell’ISIS,” Rai News, July 1, 2015.
 Paolo Biondani, “Maria Giulia, la jihadista reclutava in Italia. Le intercettazioni con i genitori e la sorella,” Espresso, July 1, 2015.
 Vidino, “Islam, Islamism, and Jihadism in Italy;” Lorenzo Vidino, “The Evolution of Jihadism in Italy: Rise in Homegrown Radicals,” CTC Sentinel 6:11 (2013); Vidino, Home-Grown Jihadism in Italy. Birth, Development and Radicalization Dynamics.
 “Bin Laden torna a minacciare su Al Jazira,” Corriere della Sera, November 13, 2002; “Bin Laden, minacce agli USA e anche all’Italia,” Corriere della Sera, October 18, 2003.
 “Islamic State Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Encourages Emigration, Worldwide Action,” SITE Intelligence Group, July 1, 2014.
 “IS Spokesman Rallies Fighters Against U.S.-Led Coalition, Threatens Enemy and Calls Individual Muslims to Launch Attacks,” SITE Intelligence Group, September 21, 2014.
 Leone Grotti, “‘Presto arriveremo a Roma.’ Tutte le volte che l’Isis ha minacciato l’Italia,” Tempi, June 30, 2016; Adam Taylor, “The Islamic State threatens to come to Rome; Italians respond with travel advice,” Washington Post, February 20, 2015.
 Francesco Grignetti, “Raid Usa in Libia, sostegno dell’Italia, ma non ci sara’ alcun invio di militari,” Secolo XIX, August 2, 2016.
 Giordano Stabile, “Nuove minacce all’Italia in un video dell’ISIS,” Stampa, April 14, 2015.
 “Islamic State hints at attacks in London, Berlin and Rome,” Reuters, April 5, 2016.
 Vidino, “The Evolution of Jihadism in Italy: Rise in Homegrown Radicals.”
 Pieter Van Ostaeyen, “Belgian Radical Networks and the Road to the Brussels Attacks,” CTC Sentinel 9:6 (2016).
 Georg Heil, “The Berlin Attack and the Abu Walaa Islamic State Recruitment Network,” CTC Sentinel 10:2 (2017).
 Raffaello Pantucci, “Al Muhajiroun’s European Recruitment Pipeline,” CTC Sentinel 8:8 (2015); Jamie Grierson, Vikram Dodd, and Jason Rodrigues, “Anjem Choudary convicted of supporting Islamic State,” Guardian, August 16, 2016.
 Armando Di Landro, “L’imam jihadista italo-australiano. Sermoni anche a Bergamo e Brescia,” Corriere della Sera, January 20, 2015.
 Giuliano Foschini, “Bilal Bosnic: ‘Ci sono italiani nell’Isis, conquisteremo il Vaticano,’” Repubblica, August 28, 2014.
 Giuliano Foschini, “Bosnia, arrestato Bosnic: ‘Reclutava in Italia per conto dell’Is,’” Repubblica, September 5, 2014.
 “Il viaggio degli jihadisti dal Veneto al campo di addestramento dell’Isis,” Corriere della Sera, March 28, 2016.
 Fabio Tonacci, “Terrorismo, sgominata cellula jihadista a Venezia: ‘Bomba a Rialto e guadagni il Paradiso,’” Repubblica, March 30, 2017; author interview, Claudio Galzerano, April 2017.
 “‘Metti una bomba a Rialto e guadagni subito il paradiso.’ Venezia, sgominata cellula jihadista.”
 Vidino, “The Evolution of Jihadism in Italy: Rise in Homegrown Radicals;” David S. Hilzenrath and John Mintz, “More Assets on Hold in Anti-Terror Effort; 39 Parties Added to List of Al Qaeda Supporters,” Washington Post, October 13, 2001.
 Alessandro Bartolini, “Reclutatori Isis, combattenti e aspiranti kamikaze: il grande romanzo nero del jihad è in Lombardia,” Fatto Quotidiano, January 4, 2017.
 Author interview, Claudio Galzerano, April 2017.
 “Sei siriani accusati di terrorismo internazionale,” Sole 24 Ore, January 29, 2015.
 Paolo Biondani, “Da Milano alla jihad in Siria: scoperta una rete di terroristi,” Espresso, January 28, 2015.
 Alessandro Bartolini, “Terrorismo, la vita parallela nell’Isis di Maria Giulia ‘Fatima’ e della sua famiglia,” Fatto Quotidiano, November 16, 2016.
 “Foreign Fighters: pronti a partire per la Siria, arrestata la famiglia di Fatima,” Giorno, July 1, 2015.
 Luca Romano, “I volti dell’Isis in Lombardia e Piemonte,” Giornale, April 28, 2016.
 Emilio Randacio, “Terrorismo, condannato a 6 anni a Milano il pugile dell’Isis: ‘Preparava un attentato a Milano,’” Repubblica, February 14, 2017.
 Giacomo Talignani, “Terrorismo Brescia, chi è Samet Ishmiti la mente del gruppo dei presunti terroristi kossovari,” Huffington Post, December 1, 2015.
 “Terrorismo, 4 arresti tra Brescia e Kosovo: ‘Legami accertati con Jihad in Siria,’” Fatto Quotidiano, December 1, 2015.
 Bartolini, “Reclutatori Isis, combattenti e aspiranti kamikaze: il grande romanzo nero del jihad è in Lombardia.”
 “Terroristi arrestati a Brescia, Waqas e Briki condannati a 6 anni,” Giorno, May 25, 2016.
 Groppi, “Islamist Radicalization in Italy: Myth or Nightmare?”
 “Migranti, record di sbarchi nel 2016,” Sole 24 Ore, January 6, 2017.
 Patrick Kingsley, “2016 Sets New Record For Asylum Seeker Reaching Italy By Boat,” Guardian, November 28, 2016.
 “Terrorismo islamico, confermate condanne e assoluzioni,” Resto del Carlino, July 16, 2011.
 Daniele Scalea, “A proposito dei terroristi sui barconi,” Huffington Post, August 19, 2016.
 Francesco Viviano, “Lampedusa, su un barcone terrorista di ritorno,” Repubblica, November 8, 2015.
 Marta Serafini, “Isis, sono 17 i foreign fighters già rientrati in Italia,” Corriere della Sera, January 5, 2017.
 Felice Cavallaro, “Attacco a Berlino, Amri si è radicalizzato in Sicilia,” Corriere della Sera, December 22, 2016.
 Cristina Nadotti, “Jihadisti d’Italia, tutti i numeri e le operazioni anti-terrorismo,” Repubblica, March 30, 2017.
 Mary Habeck, “Al Qaeda: Alive and Kicking,” Foreign Policy “Shadow Government” Blog, May 8, 2012.