Wed, 20 Jan 2021

Jihadi, mafia and ghost vessels

06 Aug 2020, 12:55 GMT+10

By Francesca MarinoRome [Italy], Aug 6 (ANI): More and more 'ghost vessels' are arriving in the South of Italy, all with the same modalities: coming from Turkey, all Pakistani, all men. On sailing ships driven by citizens of a former Soviet Union country. And the authorities are more and more alarmed.

"The Islamic extremists who, month after month, are arrested in Italy always show more clearly an interaction between Islamic terrorism and the mafia organizations present on our territory," says Margherita Paolini, a famous Italian scholar, and geopolitical expert.

"Camorra, Cosa Nostra and 'Ndrangheta have for many years now established a bond of connivance integrated with the terrorists where there is a constant and continuous exchange of weapons, drugs, and false documents," Paaolini says.

Italy is, in fact, a strategic logistics hub for both terrorists who want to transit to and from the rest of Europe and for criminal organizations that exploit these subjects to implement drug trafficking, arms, cigarettes and prostitution. The terrorist cells radicated in Italy are linked to the criminal organizations by a very solid association based on a millionaire business that is almost never mentioned or highlighted but has recently been confirmed by a 'pentito' (a former mafia person now informer of police) during a 'Ndrangheta (the Calabrian mafia) trial.

And, according to the Italian National Antimafia Directorate, "the evolution of international terrorism and the investigations carried out so far into the criminal activities of the Islamic State and jihadi groups in our country confirm the intertwining of mafia criminal organizations and international terrorism. More than an intertwining, in fact, a total interpenetration".

The first business that jihadi and mafias share is the smuggling of goods and the trafficking of weapons and drugs: and the most commercially advantageous routes for the mafias correspond to those of the terrorists. Gainluca Ansalone, professor of geopolitics at SIOI (Naples) declared more than once: "It is no coincidence that the most advantageous routes for the mafia correspond to those of terrorists. The first route is undoubtedly the Balcans that allow terrorists, as well as weapons and drugs to reach our territories after crossing Turkey and Greece".

And, talking of Balcans, something very odd, passed under silence on the international press, recently happened in Bosnia. In April in fact, the Bosnian Minister of Security Fahrudin Radoncic, accused the local Pakistani Embassy of refusing to co-operate on identifying pakistani illegal migrants who were in Bosnia. "The ambassador refused to reveal their identity based on those data and photographs" declared Radoncic "And, I will say that based on the fingerprints we gathered, we uncovered two terrorists among the migrants. Their fingerprints were found on weapons and weapons cases in a third country. Our security service did a fantastic job".

In this light, according to intelligence sources, the continuous landing in Calabria and in general in the South of Italy of 'ghost vessel' full of Pakistani men coming from Turkey appears even more worrisome and not only for health-related reasons. The smugglers are in fact always coming from a former Soviet Union country and, according to Italian immigration data, there's a constant stream of almost only Pakistani refugees from the Balcan route.

Over the years, Italy has been the privileged location of a number of terrorist organizations: one for all the Tamil Tigers, who raised funds and organized their activities from Sicily with the blessings of Cosa Nostra. Some affiliates of Lashkar-i-Toiba were arrested in 2015 in a resounding round of arrests of majority Pakistani citizens made by the Italian police for subversive activities. Furthermore, in 2016, a handful of Pakistani citizens were arrested and repatriated due to links with terrorist organizations.

In Italy, according to intelligence reports, terrorists find a hub for the production of propaganda videos but above all for the production of false documents, passports or identity cards used by smugglers, traffickers, and bombers. Besides, of course, the 'regular' funding of terrorist activities through hawala.

The same intelligence reports highlighted that the funding, done by Pakistani money sender, was intended "Not only for radical Islamist jihadist groups acting against the West but also for entities, supported by ISI, that operated and still operate in India". But despite the reports of the Italian intelligence, despite the record of arrests and expulsion Italian police have made, probably due to the decades of experience dealing with homegrown terrorist groups and criminal organizations, the situation remains alarming. And Italy remains the privileged hub for criminal activities and for terrorist groups to fund their activities and to plan attacks abroad.

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are strictly those of the author) (ANI)

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