ROME – Italian authorities confirmed on Wednesday the arrest of 15 people allegedly involved in human trafficking, belonging to a criminal organization and the incitement of terrorism.
The arrests took place in the early hours of the morning in the southern Italian provinces of Palermo, Trapani and Caltanisseta, all in Sicily, and in Brescia in the northern Lombardy region, police confirmed in a statement.
“On Jan. 9 the Carabinieri ROS and the provincial commands of Palermo and Trapani have carried out a detention against 15 suspects, held responsible for instigation to commit crimes of terrorism, conspiracy to promote illegal immigration,” the Special Operations Unit of the Carabinieri ROS tweeted.
The massive anti-terrorism operation dubbed ABIAD led to the arrest of individuals allegedly involved in a transnational criminal organization composed primarily of Tunisian citizens, police said.
The criminal gang is thought to have smuggled scores of Tunisian nationals across the Mediterranean Sea to Sicily for 2,500 euros ($ 2,878) per person.
The organization allegedly financed a sophisticated operation using the profits made in the trafficking of migrants as well as the illegal contraband of tobacco which was distributed in the Sicilian capital, Palermo.
The investigation revealed that one of the arrested men had social media links to the Islamic State terrorist organization, something the Italian police deemed a great threat to the country’s security and safety.
The person in question was one of the financial administrators of the organization which has led authorities to suspect some of the funds raised through illegal activities could have been funneled towards terrorist activities elsewhere.