Italy, Albania in anti-jihadist swoop

AFP , Wednesday 1 Jul 2015

Italian and Albanian police on Wednesday arrested 10 people they believe were on the verge of travelling to Syria to join the Islamic State group, judicial sources said.

In a separate operation, Italian police also arrested two North Africans suspected of being members of an Al-Qaeda cell engaged in attempts to radicalise potential recruits via the Internet and of plotting terrorist attacks in Italy and North Africa.

The Islamic State-related probe began in October after authorities became aware that an Italian female convert to Islam, Maria Giulia Sergio, 28, had joined the ranks of IS after marrying an Albanian with the same intention.

The couple and the husband's mother travelled to Syria via Turkey several days after their September wedding, police said.

He was immediately dispatched to an IS training camp while Sergio was given weapons training and sent messages to friends celebrating the deadly January attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Sergio persuaded her parents and a sister, also Muslim converts, to join her in Syria. The family had sold their furniture and requested passports before their arrests on Wednesday for "organising a journey for terrorist ends" -- a recently introduced offence which was applied for the first time in his case.

Five members of the husband's Albanian family were arrested, including his father, Baki Coku, 40, who was detained in Albania and is now subject to extradition proceedings. The suspects also include a Canadian long-time resident of Italy.

In an unrelated case, nine people are currently on trial in Albania on charges of attempting to recruit candidates for jihad in Syria and helping finance their trips.

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