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Photograph: poliziadistato.it

Four people were arrested in Italy on Thursday on international terrorism charges, including a man who wanted to join the Islamic State extremist militia in Syria and Iraq but had also been urged to carry out attacks in Italy, authorities said.

Police named the man as Abderrahim Moutaharrik, a 27-year-old Italian boxer with Moroccan origins, who lived in the province of Lecco, an area near Milan.

Moutaharrik "had received an order to carry out attacks on Italian soil, in particular on Rome, a city seen by the Islamic State as a symbolic place for Christian pilgrimage," Milan prosecutor Maurizio Romanelli was quoted as saying by the Adnkronos news agency.

Moutaharrik was apprehended with his wife Salma Bencharki, 26. The couple intended to take their children, aged 2 and 4, to Islamist-controlled areas.

Those arrested "had very bad intentions" and were "urged to consider the possibility of carrying out attacks or violent acts also in Italy," Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said separately, in an interview on television channel Canale 5.

Police also arrested Abderrahmane Khachia, a 23-year-old Moroccan who lived near Varese, a province near Milan. Khachia's brother had been expelled from Italy in January 2015 on international terrorism charges and is presumed to have died fighting in Syria.

The fourth person to be arrested was 24-year-old Moroccan Wafa Koraichi, the sister of a man assumed to have joined the Islamic State militia after he disappeared from the Lecco province with his family more than a year ago.

Arrest warrants were also issued for her brother Mohammed and his Italian wife Alice Brignoli, who took on the name of Aisha after converting to Islam, both of whom were classified as fugitives.

Prosecutors said Mohammed had spurred Moutaharrik to commit terrorist attacks.

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