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Algerian who plowed into church barriers in Pompeii sentenced

An Algerian is under investigation for terrorism in Italy, after he crashed against the barriers put up in defense of a church in Pompeii. To his terrified audience, he recited a litany in Arabic.

Published: April 1, 2018, 8:19 am

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    The man is 22 years old, and was expelled from France, Corriere del Mezzogiorno reported.

    The Algerian plowed his car into the flower pots in front of the holy church in Pompeii. “I did it in the name of Allah”.

    He proceeded in the wrong direction on Via Bartolo Longo, crowded with pedestrians; then he crashed against the cement flower pots put up to protect the Basilica of Pompeii from terrorist attacks.

    The Algerian Othman Jridi (22) arrived in Italy after being expelled from France, and was ordered again by the police headquarters in Cagliari to leave Italy, but remained in the country and was caught by city police after a brief chase.

    The presiding judge of Torre Annunziata, Fernanda Iannone — an international terrorism expert and the author of a dissertation on foreign terrorist fighters — ordered precautionary custody in prison.

    For the crimes charged, which included auto theft and false declarations to a public official, the Algerian was legally processed in a direct hearing, after the case files were sent to the anti-terrorism unit of the Naples prosecutor.

    The lawyer who was assisting him, Enrica Visconti, requested a more lenient sentence. Thus the request of four years and one month on the part of the prosecuting magistrate, was reduced and Jridi was sentenced to two and a half years, a penalty very severe, nevertheless, in the light of the offense committed by the accused.

    The defendant could have been given house arrest as the law provides for lower sentences, but the judge decided differently. Too many elements were cited as evidence against him.

    All in all, argued the magistrate, it is necessary to realize the extreme danger posed by the actions of the defendant. Those included the method of attack on a pedestrian zone, a square normally frequented by hundreds of persons, as well as thousands of pilgrims on festival days, the location, the person of the Algerian, illegally on Italian territory, after having been expelled from French territory, as well as the psychological-physical condition of the person.

    It appears that he had consumed by his own admission drugs and psychotropic substances which had provoked episodes of terrorist attacks.

    The young Algerian in the course of the hearing asserted that he was not in a condition to know why he had done that deed, but felt closer to Allah, made easier by taking a drug.

    In addition, the defendant in the course of the hearing continually recited an Arabic litany in the name of Allah.

    “There is the concrete and present danger that the defendant will commit other crimes of [this] kind,” and therefore it is necessary to apply the measure of precautionary custody in prison, not forcing the State to presume that he will abstain from crime in the future, since, for the State, it is the only suitable measure to confront precautionary need; such measures appear also proportionate to the gravity of the acts committed and to applicable sanctions in a case of this kind.

    The judge, therefore, stressed the presence of a “lone wolf”: drugged, in prayer, exalted, in a religious zone during a period of a religious festival, and that he had traveled many kilometers to reach an unmistakable objective.

    The jugdge’s decision was also based on the fact that after lying about his identity to the Carabinieri, Jridi had continued to lie about his address. He gave that of a fellow Algerian, and when he arrived at the location, accompanied by the military, he whispered in Arabic, “Say that I live here, if you don’t they will arrest me.”

    In yet another terror-related incident, a Moroccan man residing in Italy was detained by Carabinieri police in a dawn raid in the northern region of Piedmont on Friday over alleged terror links.

    The operation follows a Rome probe into the “criminal activities” of Ilyass Hadouz, a 19-year-old resident in the Piedmont town of Fossano, and suspicions he is part of a terrorist association.

    Investigators believe the young Moroccan conducted “intense jihadist propaganda”, via a number of accounts on social media sites including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Hadouz is thought to have radicalised himself at home, via videos and extremist Islamist online chats.

    “It’s depressing to die of old age,” he allegedly said via Facebook. “The unbelievers are set for dark days that will make their children’s hair turn white”. Friday’s is the latest in a string of operations targeting suspected trans-national Islamist terrorists this week.

    These included the arrest of five people in Rome and Latina on Thursday accused of being linked to Anis Amri, a Tunisian who carried out the 2016 Berlin Christmas-market truck attack in which 12 people were killed.

    Interior Minister Marco Minniti called for an additional reinforcement of security checks at crowded places “in view of the Easter holidays” at an extraordinary meeting of the Committee of Strategic Antiterrorism Analysis (CASA) on Wednesday follow the terror-linked arrests.

    In an interview with La Stampa newspaper on Wednesday, Minniti said “the picture of the ISIS threat remains unchanged”.

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