There is another imam among the people placed under investigation by the public prosecutor’s office in Perugia. The man’s name is Muhammad El Absi, a member of the mosque in Pierantonio di Umbertide, not far from Ponte Felcino, the place where investigators claim the “school of terror” was located. During one of the searches on the preacher’s premises, a number of CDs were seized which, according to his defence, are “completely irrelevant”; in the view of his attorney, “there is no link with the charges contemplated over Ponte Felcino.” But the Pierantonio imam has reportedly ended up on the list of persons under investigation precisely because he used to frequent the mosque which is at the centre of the investigation. In the meantime, new details are emerging regarding the investigations currently under way. According to the case against him, the plans of Mustapha El Korchi, the imam currently under arrest, and of his collaborators were geared towards radicalizing the main mosques in Umbria. This fact appears to be confirmed by the heightening in recent months of conflicts within the Islamic community in Perugia, which culminated in the protests against the imam in Umbria’s main city [Perugia], which historically has been the expression of a moderate stance. But, according to the preventive detention warrant, the Ponte Felcino cell looked beyond this too, maintaining numerous contacts abroad.
ITALY/ GERMANY: Italy and Germany experienced fresh concerns about Islamic terrorist activity over the weekend. Three Moroccans accused of running a “terror school” were arrested near Perugia, central Italy, last Saturday. On the same day Germany’s deputy interior minister August Hanning warned that al-Qaeda activists are targeting Germany for attack. Imam Korchi El Mostapha (41) and two aides, Mohammed El Jari (47) and Driss Safika (46), were arrested in a dawn raid in the village of Ponte Felcino, 7km north of the well-known Umbrian university town, Perugia. Anti-terror police reported they had found evidence of training in explosives and poisons, chemical supplies including cyanide and acids and instructions on how to fly a Boeing 747. “The evidence has shown that, in the Ponte Felcino mosque, there was sustained training for terrorist activity. We have discovered and neutralised a real “terror school, part of a widespread terrorist system made up of small cells that act on their own”, commented anti-terror police chief, Carlo De Stefano. According to police, activities at the mosque included the storage of potentially dangerous chemicals and the screening of films which contained instructions on bomb making, the detonation of bombs via mobile phone and on how to stage a bomb attack. Police also said that the three men arrested on Saturday had been in contact with the Moroccan Islamic Combat Group, GICM, in Belgium two years ago. GICM is believed to have ties to al-Qaeda and may have had a role in attacks in Casablanca in 2003 and the Madrid train bombings of 2004. Saturday’s arrests were the result of a two-year investigation based in Perugia, a popular tourist destination and home to a prestigious University For Foreigners, where hundreds of international students are enrolled. In a related raid, 20 foreign students were also arrested whilst police have a warrant for another man, believed to have left Italy.