ITALY — Three suspected ISIS jihadis have been apprehended in Venice on suspicion of plotting to blow up the city’s famous Rialto Bridge.
Venice police officials reportedly broke up the jihadist cell of three men who were secretly recorded celebrating last week’s terrorist attack in Westminster, England, and discussing how they were ready to die for the sake of Allah.
The trio was allegedly planning to detonate a bomb under the city’s historic bridge and tourist attraction, with the hope of killing “hundreds of tourists” in the process.
Prosecutor Adelchi D’Ippolito said one of the alleged terrorists was clandestinely recorded saying, “With all the non-believers there are in Venice, if you put a bomb under the Rialto bridge, you’ll immediately earn a place in heaven.”
D’Ippolito called this “one of the most worrying and alarming remarks [we’ve] heard” and described the suspects as “truly dangerous.”
In another conversation, one of the men was heard saying: “I can’t wait to take an oath to Allah. If they let me take the oath, I’m ready to die.”
The three men arrested in connection to plotting the attack have been identified as Dake Haziraj, 25, Arian Babaj, 27, and Fisnik Bekaj, 24. All three are from Kosovo and allegedly admirers of ISIS.
A fourth person linked to the men was also detained and is said to be an unnamed female minor also originally from Kosovo.
The Telegraph reports:
The suspects had embarked on a training [program], putting themselves through physical exercises and viewing videos of [ISIS] extremists explaining how to carry out knife attacks, the prosecutor said.
Police conducted nearly a dozen raids in Venice and uncovered a number of firearms, as well as evidence that the trio had downloaded instructions on how to make bombs and carry out attacks with knives from extremist websites, but did not have the necessary components for constructing a bomb.
It has been reported that all three men, who were living in Italy legally, had been under surveillance for more than a year. The undercover operation began last year after one of the men returned from Syria.
“There was [also] a lot of talk about unconditional support [for] ISIS. It wasn’t just theory and dogma,” D’Ippolito said, referring to the intercepted phone conversations. The prosecutor also claimed the suspects were close to moving toward “planning and projects.”
According to a police statement, all suspects were detained in an overnight raid after it was established that they had undergone “religious radicalization.”
Italy has deported 21 terror suspects since the beginning of this year, and 153 since January 2015, when the country ramped up security after the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. Security was tightened again after the attack in London on 22 March, reports The Guardian.
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