Italy has been able to avoid getting hit by a major terror attack despite a growing problem with radicalization in part thanks to its experience with the mafia.
Italy has long been considered a target for jihadis with an increasing population of radicalized Muslims and a rich history. Perpetrators behind recent attacks in Berlin, London and Nice all spent time in Italy but the country hasn’t been targeted since the 1980s.
Officials attribute some of the success to its experience with fighting the mafia.
“From that we drew the experience of how important it is to maintain a constant dialogue at the operating level between intelligence and law enforcement forces. In fact, prevention is key to try to be effective in counter-terrorism,” Giampiero Massolo, the former director of Italian intelligence told the Guardian in an interview published Friday.
Counter-terrorism agencies questioned 160,593 people between March 2016 and the same month the following year. Around 34,000 people were interrogated at airports. Some 550 suspects were arrested and 38 of them have been convicted on terrorism charges. Authorities have also been successful at preventing terror groups from recruiting online. Close to 500,000 websites have been monitored and hundreds of them have been shut down.
Surveillance of suspects is much more intrusive compared to other nations. The mother of Youssef Zaghba, one of the attackers behind the London bridge attack June 3, told the Guardian that her son got house visits from authorities several times per day when he visited Italy.
“They would talk to him at the airport. Then, during his stay, police officers would come a couple of times a day to check on him,” Valeria Collina, Zaghba’s mother, told the Guardian. “They were friendly to Youssef. They would say: ‘Hey son, tell me what you have been doing. What are you doing? How are you?'”
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