ROME: Italian police have identified an Algerian man suspected of being involved in the Nov. 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.
Prosecutors in the southern city of Bari believe that 36-year-old Athmane Touami, also known as Tomi Mahraz, allegedly provided support to the terrorists who carried out the attacks, including giving them fake documents.
The suspected Daesh member was already in a Bari jail after being convicted of forgery.
He was due to be released this June, but a new detention order related to the probe into his alleged involvement in the Paris attacks means that will not happen.
“If Touami were released, he would probably disappear without trace,” Bari Chief Prosecutor Riccardo Rossi told Arab News.
He said the Algerian was put under special surveillance while he was detained, and that evidence of his involvement with the terrorist group had emerged from his conversations with other inmates.
The attacks of Nov. 13, 2015, saw 130 people killed and hundreds more wounded when suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the Stade de France stadium, bars and restaurants in central Paris and the Bataclan concert hall.
“The investigations have made it possible to ascertain that the suspect was in proximity to radical jihadist environments, as well as his direct support to the authors of the terrorist attacks at the Bataclan theater,” Rossi said at a press conference.
Touami is suspected of being part of a Daesh cell operating in France and Belgium with his two brothers.
He is also alleged to have been in contact with Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Daesh extremist and mastermind of the Paris attacks, as well as Khalid Zerkani, an extremist preacher in Brussels who recruited scores of young Muslims as fighters for the Syrian war. Abaaoud was killed in a police raid five days after the attacks in Paris.
Zerkani, who is now in prison, has been described by Belgian investigators as the country’s “biggest recruiter” of fighters.
Rossi said that Bari, which is the main port of entry to Italy for ships from Greece and the Balkans, was becoming “central” in the response to terrorism.
“Many of those who enter Europe from war zones and areas where terrorist organizations are operating must pass by Bari also for logistical reasons to reach other European countries. No doubt, our city is a point of passage and, in fact, we believe that many perpetrators of attacks in Europe in the past have passed through Bari. This is why we must be particularly vigilant.”
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