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Published:July 25th, 2007 09:49 EST
Rome and Milan Airports Targeted by Terrorists

Rome and Milan Airports Targeted by Terrorists

By SOP newswire

PERUGIA – Investigators have seized photographs of Rome’s Fiumicino airport that may have been connected with preparations for an attack by an Al Qaeda cell. The sixty suspicious chemicals found could have been used to make explosives. There was also a map with five or six cities – the main centres in central and northern Italy, including Milan – circled, as if they were a focus of special attention for the group of Islamic fundamentalists who attended the mosque in a district of Perugia. Also seized were also maps of Umbria’s water supply system, suggesting there might have been plans to poison it.

Magistrates and DIGOS and UCIGOS special branch police investigators are cautious and expressed doubts that terrorists were about to strike. “But we cannot rule out that they were getting ready and gathering information as they made preparations", said a worried officer, one of those who have been working for the past two years on the sermons of the imam, Mostapha El Korchi, and his frequent incitements to wage holy war against crusaders and infidels. But there is more. There is a year-long gap in the life in Italy – as an illegal – of the mosque’s caretaker, Driss Safika, a close associate of the imam and arrested with him for that reason. After arriving on Lampedusa in autumn 2005 on one of the many rickety refugee boats, Safika disappeared without trace to reappear in Perugia.

FIUMICINO – The documents attached to the application for an arrest warrant by prosecuting magistrate Nicola Miriano and public prosecutor Alessandro Cannevale contain a wealth of promising leads and outline some disturbing scenarios. One of the passages that mention El Korchi’s activities notes that he returned to Morocco early this year and returned to Italy two weeks later on 20 January. On his outward journey, he left Perugia on a scheduled coach to fly from Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport. But investigators, liaising with airport police, noticed something suspicious when he came back. The imam was met by another Moroccan, Mohcine Abouda, and third non-EU immigrant who took seven photographs of the airport. The photos were later traced by the police on El Korchi’s web site, from where they could have gone anywhere in the world.

STREET PLANS AND MAPS – Searches carried out at the time of the three arrests seriously worsened the position of the imam of Pierantonio, a village in the province of Perugia. Mohamed El Absi was found to have in his mosque the map on which five or six cities were circled. When police officers asked him why they were marked, he refused to answer. The map of Umbria’s water supply was found at the home of another suspect and investigations into how it got there are under way.

INTERNET AND CHEMICALS – Dozens of CDs have been found in the Lake Trasimeno area. They were seized at the flat of the group’s computer technician, another North African. “He’s a bit of an expert", said one investigator. “He was the only person called in when the Ponte Felcino mosque’s computer had a problem and he also installed the sophisticated equipment used to encrypt the site and stop us finding out what the imam of Ponte Felcino was up to". DIGOS and UCIGOS special branch officers are working on dozens of SIM cards and mobile phone numbers that were unknown to them until Saturday morning. They want to make further checks on satellite maps of the Syria-Iraq border to find out whether El Korchi downloaded them from internet to give travel advice to fundamentalists intent on becoming suicide bombers for the jihad. Tests are also in progress on the sixty or so flasks of chemicals found in the basement at Ponte Felcino. According to the prefect, Carlo De Stefano, who is also in charge of UCIGOS, the chemicals are “highly toxic. In combination with each other or with other easily sourced materials", he said, “it would have been possible to make dirty bomb-type weapons, terrorism’s new frontier".

LAMPEDUSA – Police experts suspected that Al Qaeda supporters might have been hiding among the refugees arriving in Italy from Africa. Now those suspicions have been confirmed by the Perugia investigations. The route used by Driss Safika to reach other alleged Islamic fundamentalists has been reconstructed from his fingerprints. On 29 October 2005, he arrived on one of the refugee boats. He gave his name as Idriss Safika and said he was born in Morocco on 1 September 1961. Now his arrest in Perugia has revealed his true identity as Driss Safika. He was in fact born in Casablanca in 1961 but on 1 January.

Flavio Haver

English translation by Giles Watson

Article in Italian