italy police arrest.jpg
Photograph: EPA/FRANCESCO ARENA

Italy's police said Monday it arrested a 25-year-old Moroccan man on terrorism charges, suspecting that the man had attempted to travel to Syria to join Islamic State militias and was set to try again.

The ANSA news agency named the suspect as Hamil Mehdi, and reported that he lived in Luzzi, a small town in the southern region of Calabria, with his parents and four brothers, all of whom had legal residency papers.

Mehdi was placed under surveillance in July, when he left Italy for Turkey, but was swiftly returned to Rome after Turkish authorities flagged him up as a national security threat, an Italian police statement said.

Police, who broke into the suspect's home in an overnight raid, said they had grounds to believe that the man's final destination would have been Syria, where he intended "to fight alongside [Islamic State] guerrillas."

Ensuing investigations have revealed "his compulsive search, through the internet, of Islamic State propaganda documents and videos" on suicide bombing and guerrilla fighting, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said separately.

Alfano said police noted that the man had become estranged from the local Moroccan community and embraced "a very rigid practice of Koranic precepts," adding that such behaviour is normally associated with people who become radicalized.

Quoting investigative sources, ANSA also said the suspect had expressed the intention to move to Belgium, a country known to have had terrorist recruiting cells and where plans for the November Islamist strikes on Paris were allegedly hatched.

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