| Welcome to Global Village Space

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Italy arrests Pakistanis linked to 2020 Charlie Hebdo attack

The anti-terrorism police in Italy& EU (Europol) arrested 14 Pakistanis suspected of links to the Muslim terrorist who attacked France’s Charlie Hebdo magazine in 2020

Italy’s anti-terrorism police and Europol on Tuesday arrested Pakistanis suspected of links to the man who attacked France’s Charlie Hebdo magazine in 2020.

The sting led to “arrests in Italy and abroad of Pakistani citizens with direct ties” to Zaheer Hassan Mahmood, a Pakistani man who attacked two people with a meat cleaver weeks after the magazine republished controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, Italian police said. It did not say how many were arrested.

Europol’s European Counter Terrorism Centre coordinated the operation along with anti-terrorism police in France and Spain, according to police in Genoa in north-west Italy, where a judge signed 14 arrest warrants concerning offences related to “international terrorism”.

Read more: Pakistan slams French paper Charlie Hebdo for reprinting blasphemous cartoons

Genoa’s local Il Secolo XIX daily said at least eight of the arrest warrants had been carried out in Italy against people belonging to “a network of Islamic extremists… who were plotting attacks”.

The probe began in Genoa because one of the suspects lives in the area, but months of “wiretaps, stake-outs, tailing suspects and comparing numerous data with police in other countries” revealed other members of the gang in other parts of Italy, France and Spain, it said.

The investigation continues into others with alleged ties to those targeted by Tuesday’s sting, it added.

Mahmood injured two people during the 2020 attack, which came five years after 12 members of staff at the satirical weekly were gunned down for publishing the cartoons, which are considered blasphemous by many Muslims.

Charlie Hebdo’s director Laurent Sourisseau, known as “Riss” and who was himself badly wounded in the shoulder in the attack, told the court this week that there was nothing to regret in publishing the cartoons. “What I regret is to see how little people fight to defend freedom. If we don’t fight for our freedom, we live like a slave and we promote a deadly ideology,” he said.

Read more: Iran condemns sacrilegious cartoons by French magazine

Charlie Hebdo’s republication of the cartoons drew new condemnation from states including Iran, Pakistan and Turkey. But Sourisseau, who now lives under round the clock protection, said it had to republish them. “If we had given up the right to publish these cartoons, that would mean that we were wrong to do so” in the first place, he said.

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk