Italy: Police charges suspected terrorists with planning France/UK attacks (updated)

Italy: Police charges suspected terrorists with planning France/UK attacks

ANSA News agency reports today that Italian police arrested two suspected al-Qaeda men. The two men are Bassam Ayachi (63) and Raphael Gendron (34). They were both arrested last November in the city of Bari, in southern Italy on charges of illegal immigration after police found three Palestinians and two Syrians hiding in their vehicle.

Ayachi and Gendron are suspected of preparing terror attacks in France and the UK, specifically against Charles de Gaulle airport. According to Le Repubblica they had weapons and explosives and had set up a recruiting network to recruit people for suicide missions to Iraq and Afghanistan. (See RFI, EN)

The two are French citizens, Ayachi is a Syrian and Gendron is a French a convert to Islam. At the time of his arrest Ayachi had his 6 year old son with him, named after 9/11 bomber Mohammed Atta.

Both were heavily involved in radical Islamic activity in Belgium. Bassam Ayachi headed the Centre Islamique Belge and organized Jihadi training trips to the Ardennen. Ayachi had conducted the marriage ceremony of Abdessatar Dahmane and Malika el Aroud, 'The Mother of al-Qaeda in Europe'. Dahmane assasinated Afghan rebel leader Ahmed Shah Massoud on the eve of September 11.

Ayachi had to flee Belgium in 2006. That same year Raphaël Gendron and Ayachi's son, Abdel Rahman Ayachi, were sentenced to a prison sentence and a hefty fine for incitement to racial hatred and Holocaust denial. An appeals court dismissed the Holocaust denial charges earlier this year, dropped the prison sentence and reduced the fine to 2,000 euro.

In December, a month after the arrest in Italy, Belgian police arrested an al-Qaeda cell in Brussels headed by El Aroud. The Italian minister of Internal Affairs then confirmed that the Brussels arrest was related to the Bari arrest. The Brussels cell were suspected of planning a terror attack, though it was unclear what was their target.

For more on Bassam Ayachi and Raphaël Gendron see:
* France/Italy: Al-Qaeda cell investigation
* Antwerp: Youth leave for Jihad training in Pakistan
* Antwerp: The Jihadis of Antwerp North (2)
* Book Review: Undercover in Little Morocco
* Belgium: conviction for hatred site
* Belgium: Charges dropped on Israel-Nazi comparison

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