Three generations of jihadist preachers in Italy compared[1] – by Alessandro Boncio

Introduction. The period of jihadi terrorism that Western countries are experiencing currently, could be labelled as a moment of reshaping and transformation. Following the collapse of its Syrian-Iraqi creature, ISIS is repositioning itself physically and ideologically; at the same time, al-Qa’ida linked groups are constantly strengthening its files and ranks, still strong of its cultural appeal[2]. In this phase, many academics and field experts are profiting by the relative decrease of terrorist attacks to study the ideologues that influenced previous and current generations of jihadist fighters. The recent books published by Thomas Hegghammer, Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens and Daniel Byman are the most notable examples of academics that are filling a gap in literature, deconstructing past historical and recent events to understand the complex phenomena that shaped jihadism and better foresee its future.[3]

Past ideologues such as Abdallah Yusuf Azzam and Anwar al-Awlaki are in fact jihadi literature immovable references also today[4]; their words and writings are often found in many computers and telephones during counter-terrorism investigations. Other famous preachers belonging to Salafi-jihadist social movements have been the driving force for the propagation of extremist ideas, usually the first step towards the mobilization to violence for young people involved in these social networks. Moreover, in this globalization age, though off-line channels are still important for the personal interaction they permit, it is undeniable that the new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have been and will be crucial for the evolution and development of violent extremism, acting as a force multiplier[5]. Other factors that have also contributed to change irreversibly the modalities of extremist proselytism are: the pervasive internet influence (which diminishes the necessity for personal interactions), massive technological capabilities (which allow to instantly share extreme contents) and travel simplification (facilitated by reduced costs and global destinations coverage)[6].

So far, Italy has not produced such researches, possibly due to the jihadist phenomenon lower influence in the country and its network being rather fluid and unstructured, unlike other European nations such as, England, France or Germany. Moreover, the limits to such efforts are also linked to the unique situation experienced in the country; even if the risk factors for violent radicalization are generically superimposable, Italian jihadists have their own peculiarities due to demographic and socio-cultural factors affecting also the proselytism and recruiting sequence[7].

Nonetheless, investigative and judicial evidence so far have shown that some prominent preachers have certainly influenced a substantial sector of the Italian jihadist scene by using their mujahidiin charisma (having fought in previous conflicts) and their fuqaha[8] credentials as appealing tracts to recruit new followers. Ideology in Italy still plays an important role in the radicalization processes, often as a superstructure that links together various individual and societal grievances.     

The purpose of this study is to analyze three relevant figures of the Italian Salafi-jihadist landscape that were responsible for the radicalization, recruitment and mobilization to jihad of many individuals in our country. The research will also highlight some common elements to the three different generations of preachers analyzed, as well as the peculiarities that distinguish them. Hopefully, the findings will provide an updated picture of current relevant factors linked to jihadist radicalization in Italy exploited by extremist preachers, thus helping in preventing, or at least limiting their influence in the future.

The Italian situation

Militant jihadism in Italy so far has had a much more limited societal impact than in other European nations. Since the al-Qa’ida terror devolution of the 1990s, Italy has mainly played the role of transit and logistic hub, with a network of affiliates that remained very fluid and varied. These are individuals of mixed ethnographic backgrounds (Maghreb, Balkan, Middle Eastern), who seldom held important roles in terrorist groups, especially when compared with mujahidiin from Great Britain, France and Belgium. The Italian jihadist milieu is ultimately still a social movement of young individuals established outside their parents religious and cultural reference elements and deeply entrenched with our society youth sub-cultures[9].

From this perspective, ISIS rapid growth and the creation of its pseudo-state in the SYRAQ territories, acted as a driving and attraction force in the radicalization pathways that affected an entire generation of young individuals searching for personal identity and social redemption. The evolution of jihadi extremism and homegrown terrorism are therefore phenomena resulting from exogenous and endogenous factors, influenced by conflicts in the Middle East and by jihadist propaganda that shaped the previous generation of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) during the conflicts in Bosnia, Somalia, and Chechnya. New and more efficient means of communication intertwined with the fascination of a new, victorious Caliphate were the variables that influenced the current wave of FTFs. 

Although Italy did not host famous Salafi-jihadist preachers like Anjem Choudari and Omar Bakri Muhammad (in England), Fouad Belkacem (in Belgium) and Abu Walaa (in Germany), some charismatic figures undoubtedly have had an influence in the radicalization of several individuals in the country. Najmuddin Faraj Ahmad (aka Mullah Krekar) and Husein Bilal Bosnic, former jihadi fighters in previous conflicts (Iraq and Bosnia), represent the mujahid role model for many young individuals. Elmahdi Halili is instead the prototype of the contemporary preacher and recruiter; very young and skilled in ICTs, great communicator on social networks, he has neither the religious credentials nor the appeal of the jihad veteran. His greatest ability was therefore to be able to match with the young individuals personal and social grievances through a skillful exploitation of jihadist literature and propaganda.

Methodology

Before presenting the methodology used in this paper, it is important to discredit the assumption that extremism is primarily caused by religion in general or by one religion specifically; we need to stress once more that violent extremism must not be considered as the product of a religion, nor should it be confined within a single creed[10]. The vast majority of the Italian Muslim community in fact is well integrated and lives in accordance with the democratic principles of our country; only an infinitesimal percentage of those embraces an extremist interpretation of Islamic doctrine or decides to mobilize by joining a jihadist group[11].

This research aims to study the influence that three different ideologues had in radicalizing individuals in Italy in the last decade (2011-2020); this time span connects the unparalleled mobilization of jihadists with the birth and development of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

The study sample consists of three preachers/ideologues of different generations covering a very wide age span (25 – 64 years), with heterogeneous ethnographic profile (Middle Eastern, Balkan, Italian) and different ideological backgrounds and motivations. The selected individuals have operated in different countries (mainly European), but in all three cases they have nevertheless proselytized, radicalized, recruited and initiated to jihad various people residing in our country.

All the information regarding this study are publicly available and originates mainly from primary and secondary sources (judicial sentences, biographies, interviews, documentaries and academic researches) with confirmation obtained through multiple and reliable open sources.

The core of the research is the jihadist ideology disseminated by the ideologues; the concept is borrowed from the enlightening explanation made by J.M. Berger, who considers as extremist ideology “a collection of texts that describe who is part of the in-group, who is part of an out-group, and how the in-group should interact with the out-group. Ideological texts can include a wide range of media types including books, images, lectures, videos and conversations[12].  

Three Biographies

Mullah Krekar[13]

Faraj Ahmad Najmuddin, also known as Mullah Krekar is a high-level jihadi ideologue and preacher active since the Afghan conflict. Born in 1956 in al-Sulaymaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan, he grew up with seven brothers in a family of modest social level, experiencing youth between a passion for football and a growing political activism for Kurdish independence[14]. At 17, he joined the Peshmerga for the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), but after the failure of the nationalist revolt led by KDP leader Mustafa Barzani in 1975, he decided to follow the path of Islamism with the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan (IMK)[15]. Unlike the Kurdish majority of his time, who believed in political confrontation with Iraqi and international interlocutors to achieve Kurdistan independence, Faraj Ahmad Najmuddin was convinced that jihad and armed struggle were the only useful tools eventually leading to a Kurdish Islamic emirate, to be later included in a larger caliphate[16].

After graduating in Arabic in Iraq, he went to Pakistan in 1983 to graduate in Islamic law (fiqh), completing his PhD in Islamic studies at Sindh University in 1988. In the meantime, based on what was accomplished by Abdallah Azzam, founder of Maktab al-Khidamat, Krekar established a similar center for Kurdish fighters in Peshawar, while teaching at Islamabad university and becoming very intimate with Abdallah Azzam[17].

In 1991, he emigrated to Norway, where he managed to obtain citizenship for his wife and four children, while he received a residence permit as a refugee[18]. From 1992 he returned to Iraq several times, and began to climb the IMK ranks, at first becoming the military office commander and later heading the planning and development office[19].

In 2001, after the events of September 11, he returned to Iraq, where he established and became the first leader of Ansar al-Islam, a Sunni jihadist group operating in Iraq during the Second Gulf War[20]. According to several sources, the organization was funded with at least 300,000$ given by Usama bin Ladin, at the specific request of Mullah Krekar[21]; in 2002 Ansar al Islam officially became the Kurdish branch of Al-Qa’ida[22]. The group’s main goal was the assassination of Kurdish nationalist politicians, guilty of not favoring the implementation of the shari’a[23].

Italy has always represented a very important country for Krekar as an ideologue and a recruiter; since the early 2000s in fact, a jihadist cell led by the Tunisian Mourad Trabelsi (Cremona’s imam), was active in northern Italy, facilitating the flood of fighters and currency from Italy to their Ansar al-Islam man in Iraq, Noureddine Drissi[24]. A police operation in April 2003 exposed the links between via Quaranta Milan mosque (whose imam was the notorious Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, aka Abu Omar) and the cell operating in Cremona, which recruited Middle Easterners (mainly Kurds) to be sent to Iraq. The money instead arrived through couriers passing through former Soviet countries, avoiding stricter police controls[25]

In 2003, following a targeted offensive by the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq, Ansar al-Islam was decimated and the few operatives left decided to join other foreign fighters (including those from Abu Mu’sab al- Zarqawi group, Tawhid al-Jihad) in the Ansar al-Sunna umbrella organization[26]. Due to al-Zarqawi’s “internationalist” drive, Ansar al-Sunna broadened its target list, including foreign troops in Iraq (among other things Zarqawi was responsible for the attack against the Italian Carabinieri military contingent in Al-Nassiriyah on November 23, 2003[27]) and Shiites (the worst attack being the one in Baghdad and Karbala during the Ashura festival in 2004, in which 178 people died[28]).

In 2002, in an attempt to fly to Iran, Krekar was arrested at Amsterdam airport, interrogated by FBI agents, and subsequently sent back to Norway[29]; in 2003 CIA agents were sent to the Nordic country with the intent to execute another extraordinary rendition immediately after the one performed in Milan against the aforementioned Abu Omar. Indeed, Krekar, as leader of Ansar al-Islam, was held responsible for the death of dozens of US troops in Iraq; however, the attempt was not carried out[30]

In Norway, Krekar continued to recruit jihadist fighters, often stirring up the wrath of local public opinion because of his statements in favor of shari’a implementation and his threats against local politicians. The recruitment and financing network managed by Krekar via the internet was extended to Italy, Germany, Finland and Sweden as well as to the Middle East[31].

Arrested and tried several times, in 2007 Krekar was declared a threat to the Norwegian nation, but could not be extradited to Iraq because of the death penalty still enforced in the country. Prosecuted in 2011 for threatening former minister Erna Solberg, he was finally arrested in 2012, but on appeal he was acquitted of terrorism and death threats charges[32].

Krekar was arrested two more times in 2015; the first, following his enthusiastic declarations after the Charlie Hebdo attack, and the second in November of the same year, when Rawti Shax was exposed. The latter was a new transnational network active since 2008 that recruited, financed and sent fighters to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside with ISIS[33]. The network had an Italian cell in Bolzano province, mainly composed of Iraqi Kurds (Abdul Rahman Nauroz, Abdula Salih Ali and Jalal Hasan Saman), and a Kosovar (Eldin Hodza) that was radicalized and sent to Syria as a foreign fighter[34]. It is worth mentioning that Abdula Salih Ali was a member of the Italian Ansar al-Islam cell investigated in 2003, thus confirming the enduring link with the previous terrorist group[35]. Although in prison, Krekar was the ideologue of the group that operated in Norway, Italy, England, Germany and Switzerland; being their Emir, he thus decided on strategic issues regarding the network, including the participation in the Syrian-Iraqi conflict and the decision to align with ISIS. Rawti Shax represented the evolution of Ansar al-Islam as stated several times by Mullah Krekar himself, both in the virtual Paltalk chat room and (after his arrest in 2012) in prison wiretappings, during which he explicitly reaffirmed the link with Ansar al-Islam and the ideological continuity and political struggle that binds the two movements[36]. Krekar was arrested again in July 2019 after the appeal ruling that found him guilty of founding, organizing and leading a terrorist network that aimed to recruit and send FTFs to SYRAQ; the 12-year sentence of imprisonment was enforced after Krekar extradition to Italy in March 2020[37].

Bilal Bosnic

Husein Bilal Bosnic, born in Buzim (northern Bosnia) in 1972, is one of the most important leaders in the Salafi-jihadist movement of Bosnia Herzegovina. He is considered by many intelligence services as one of the main Balkan FTFs recruiter, especially due to his role as itinerant imam in the 2000s in Europe, that also allowed him to strongly impact on the Italian jihadist scene.

After emigrating to Stuttgart in Germany with his family as a boy, he got connected with the local Salafist scene which strongly influenced him[38]. Bosnic returned to Bosnia in 1992 during the conflict against the Serbs, joining the Bosnian Youth Muslim movement and fighting in the 7th Muslim Army Brigade (al-Mujahidin); its commander was the Egyptian Anwar Shaaban, one of the leading figures who left the Islamic Cultural Center in viale Jenner in Milan in the 1990s[39]. At the end of the conflict he rose in the ranks, becoming an important member of the Bosnian Salafist movement together with Yusuf Barcic; on the latter’s death he became the de facto spiritual leader of the jihadist Salafists throughout the country with Nusret Imamovic, although Bosnic did not possess academic qualifications or credentials as a scholar of Quranic law[40].

Unlike the young Europeans who gave birth to the homegrown jihadist phenomenon, often radicalized through videos and reports of the atrocities against Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo, violent radicalization among young Muslims in the Balkans was usually accelerated by the firsthand experience of the ethnic conflict. A growing spiral also facilitated by funding from various Gulf countries that aimed to promote wahhabism, a rigid and conservative version of Islam[41]. In the meantime, local institutions overlooked the creation of isolated safe havens for these individuals, struggling to rebuild the economic and social fabric tormented by the war; this situation lasted until 11 September 2001, when the extent of the threat posed by jihadi terrorism became evident also to Balkan governments[42].

Bosnic began to attract European security services attention with his preaching sessions abroad, during which he praised jihad, hoping for the destruction of the United States and lauding the shahid (martyr) Usama bin Ladin, who “will remain alive forever, having died fighting on the way to God (jihad fi sabil Allah)[43]. In 2012, he urged Bosnian Muslims to embrace jihad for the defense of Islam, a statement for which he was arrested and briefly detained[44]. Other investigations linked Bosnic to polygamy, as he lived in Buzim with 4 wives and their 18 children, but the allegations could not be proven because the man had officially married only one of the women. On August 2014, during another sermon that was recorded on video, the preacher reiterated the call to jihad urging Muslims to join Daesh; the video was later removed from Youtube for violation of the platform terms of use (incitement to hatred)[45].

Bosnic has been an itinerant preacher in various European countries, from Germany to Austria, from Belgium to Switzerland[46]; but it is Italy, also for its geographical proximity, that the preacher considered very important for jihad recruitment and financing; in fact he preached in several Italian cities, such as Bergamo, Cremona, Pordenone and Siena[47]. Between Pordenone and Belluno, Bosnic radicalized Ismar Mesinovic (Bosnian), Munifer Karamaleski, Elmir Amvedoski (both Macedonians) and Umar Baig (Pakistani), four FTFs who left Italy in 2013 and were hosted at Bosnic’s home in Buzim, to receive instructions and tazkia (accreditation by recommendation) before joining ISIS fighters[48]. He also had links with other network facilitators in northeastern Italy such as Rok Zavbi, Arslan Osmanoski and Redjep Lijmani[49]. Moreover, in Siena Bosnic sermons further radicalized Maria Giulia (Fatimah) Sergio, the girl who went to Syria with her husband Aldo Kobuzi, facilitated by the Kosovar-Albanian network of intermediaries managed by the imam Idriz Billibani, with whom Bosnic traveled in Italy to proselytize[50].

During a 2014 interview, Bosnic further emphasizes the strategic importance of our country for militant jihadism: “through jihad, the only legitimate means of struggle, Muslims will conquer the world and even the Vatican will one day be under the banner of Islam; I may not be able to see it, but that moment will come, so it is written.[51]. The importance of these statements in the global jihadist scene is shown by the literal quotation made by the official ISIS outlet of the time (Dabiq) in its fourth issue[52].

Specifically because of his statements and the relentless proselytism and recruitment activities favoring ISIS, Bosnic was arrested on September 3, 2014, during a police operation dubbed Damask, while returning from a preaching tour in Finland where he raised 100,000 marks[53]. In November 2015, Bosnic was sentenced to 7 years in prison (with final sentence confirmed in 2016) for inciting to terrorism, recruiting individuals for terrorist activities, organizing and financing of terrorist groups[54]. Bosnic’s recruiting strategies were highlighted during the trial, showing how he was able to exploit people’s vulnerabilities, providing them with a strong sense of belonging, a group identity and a divine mission to fulfill. His followers radicalization took place through a “brainwashing that included sermons, videos and secret meetings”, all organized to intersect with the vulnerabilities of the audience he addressed while preaching[55].

 

Elmahdi Halili

The third preacher examined in this research is a 25 year old young man of Moroccan ancestry, but born and raised in Italy. “Without imams with radical ideas there would be no mujahidiin, that is, fighters of the holy war“; with this statement in his indictment summary of June 2019, the Turin Assistant Prosecutor outlined Elmahdi Halili features as a digital imam with a potentially vast audience, made up mostly of young people at risk of violent radicalization who today exploit the web to find answers to their personal and social grievances[56].

With two arrests with terrorism charges in just four years (2015-2018), Elmahdi Halili is an individual well known to intelligence and police forces; his name is in fact connected to many of the latest counterterrorism activities in Italy: from the investigations on Anas el-Abboubi, up to the judicial case of Abderrahim Moutaharrik and Abderrahmane Khachia[57].

Born and raised between Ciriè and Lanzo Torinese (Torino province), Halili grew up in a well-integrated family, achieving an electrical engineering high school diploma. After graduating, Halili was employed as a plastic factory worker and cultivated a passion for football[58].He always professed to be a practicing Muslim and began to take an interest in radical interpretations of Islamic tenets already in high school[59].

The progressive isolation from the family because of his extreme ideas increasingly polarized his life and behavior; his father, a bricklayer in Italy since 1989, was violently attacked and accused of being a kafir (unbeliever) for attempting to limit Elmahdi influence on his two younger brothers. Halili’s mother, a housewife, was even prevented from touching his food, because of her supposed “impurity” as a Muslim[60]. The boy made donations to jihadist organizations, searched the web obsessively for ISIS material and created a virtual friendships network of individuals linked to Italian and international jihadism, coming into contact, among others, with an FTF in Syria, whose kunya (battlename) was Omar al-Amriki. Halili showed off with the latter, presenting himself as the author of the first Italian document on the Islamic State released on the internet in 2014[61]: a self-denunciation that represented a strong element for his arrest in 2015, confirming the charges at the first trial and detailing Halili’s role in supporting ISIS[62].

Even with regard to his young age (25 years), Halili played an important role in promoting the Islamic State ideas since 2013 (when he was only 18 years old). He and Alban Elezi, had a supporting role in the radicalization of Anas el Abboubi and Mahmoud Ben Ammar in Brescia, and Jalal el-Anaoui in Pisa, through sharing ISIS propaganda material on social networks[63].

As already noted, Halili also authored the first Italian language publication dedicated to Daesh, titled “The Islamic State, a reality that would like to communicate to you[64]. The document is essential to understand the proselytism and recruiting activity range set up by Elmahdi Halili; the text is in fact also mentioned in the judicial sentence against FTF Maria Giulia (Fatimah) Sergio, stressing that its internet publication allowed for the first time many Italian-speaking people to have access to ISIS material. In detail, the document is a propaganda manifesto, divided into 14 chapters dedicated to various aspects of daily life under Daesh, with interviews with “institutions” representatives to highlight the supposed perfection of the life in the utopian Islamic State[65].

Further highlighting Elmahdi Halili’s great ideological depth and importance, it is interesting to underline the reactions from his friend Oussama Khachia, expelled from Italy for national security reasons and later killed in Syria while fighting for ISIS[66]. In a message written on his social network account after Halili’s first arrest, he consoles him “One day Insha’Allah all this injustice will end my dear brother, be patient. The night of injustice has been long but we see close the dawn of victory[67].

Halili however, did not stop proselytizing on behalf of Daesh after his release, and in 2018 he was arrested again due to his attempt to radicalize and recruit young individuals for possible future attacks as well as for his links with the Salafi organization al-Muhajroun and with the Islam4UK movement led by Anjem Choudary. Among his acolytes, Halili taught on the jihad obligation to Eliamon Aristide Akossi and attempted to radicalize various Italians who converted to Islam[68]. In his sermons Halili emphasized the fundamental role of jihad among the pillars of Islamic religion, justified attacks on civilians and encouraged hatred against kuffar (unbelievers), de-contextualizing Holy Quran verses and quoting hukm al rad’i (the “theory of complicity”), which considers civilians who do not rebel against their government as legitimate targets for an attack[69]. Elmahdi Halili, whose first instance trial took place in 2019, was sentenced to six and a half years in prison[70].

Halili represents the new jihadist model, already highlighted in other national realities; he does not have a mujahidiin background nor academic credentials or Islamic law studies. Nevertheless, he managed to establish himself as an Islamic State ideologue in Italy, especially for the younger generations who, like him, experience the quite typical identity conflict associated with young age. He brainwashed fragile individuals by praising the virtues of the terrorist movement, committing himself for the shari’a implementation in Italy, inciting individuals, firstly met on the web and then in person, to strike in the name of Islam, justifying any type of violence against infidels and apostates[71].

Common characteristics and peculiarities

From the biographical and behavioral analysis of Krekar, Bosnic and Halili it is observable that some features are recurring in all of them, regardless of their age, cultural background and personal experiences, while other elements represent individual endogenous and exogenous peculiarities. In detail:

  • The network has always been a factor of extreme relevance, regardless of the ideologues different generation; Mullah Krekar and Bilal Bosnic previous conflicts experiences (Iraq and Bosnia) provided them with affiliates and contacts that facilitated the creation of following organizations within the global jihadist movement. Both men integrated the “virtuous practices” learned from their previous experiences, conveying them to the groups they later led[72]. Conversely, current jihadist are greatly facilitated by their internet exploitation, through social networks platforms and instant messaging applications, as highlighted by Halili’s biography. The latter, credited himself as a jihadist leader in Italy despite not having previous mujahid experiences, nor credentials as an Islamic religion scholar. He did so by producing original ISIS propaganda, translating and disseminating on the web famous preachers speeches to give greater visibility to the jihadist movement, using the younger generation’s slang to make the message more appealing and meaningful.
  • Linked to the previous element, is the factor related to the networks transnationality. Since the 1980s, Abdallah Azzam was firmly convinced that only international mobilization would free the Islamic world from oppression[73]; until then, the armed struggle had mainly a nationalistic or local political flavor, but Azzam’s 1984 fatwa (binding pronouncement) was the first theological/legal argument that invested every believer in the fard al-ayn (individual obligation) of fighting everywhere against the oppressor[74]. Krekar, Bosnic and Halili, have used this theorization, preaching and proselytizing wherever it has been possible for them, interacting personally or through the web to give maximum reach to their message.
  • Same consideration applies to the preacher’s audience that, from a psychosocial point of view, turns out to be relatively homogeneous. Jihadist ideology is often a structure attached to common root causes of radicalization, such as the search for a place to belong, the quest for significance, perceived deprivation, the quest for excitement, and camaraderie[75]. Many academic studies have shown that one of the influencing factors in radicalization processes is related to personal identity and social belonging. Skilled recruiters are able to identify and exploit various grievances of young individuals, building a new collective identity and providing them with an interpretative framework through which to understand the world around them[76]. In other studies it is highlighted that “where identity is as yet unformed (especially in adolescence) or complex (e.g. among second-generation immigrants) it can become a significant source of vulnerability”[77]. Mullah Krekar and Bilal Bosnic mujahidiin past exercised an undisputed fascination on people looking for behavioral models to emulate or parental figures to replace; on the other hand, Elmahdi Halili interacted mainly with millennials, a hyper-connected generation, living onlife their existence[78]. In this environment, it is the most talented influencer that emerge due to his persuasion skills; in Halili’s case, jihad of the word was made by producing original propaganda documents and translating into Italian language jihadist main scripts. Moreover, his arrest in 2015 became an integral element in his jihadist curriculum, acknowledging him like a real
  • On an anthropological level, the three analyzed individuals represent very different ethno-cultural worlds. We span from the evolution of Iraqi Kurdish nationalism in Salafism-jihadist (Mullah Krekar), to the former Yugoslavia’s collapse and following ethnic/religious conflicts (Bilal Bosnic), concluding with a mix of Italian youth culture imbued with the Moroccan family traditions (Elmadi Halili). However, different cultural and individual trajectories rejoin when it comes to the cultural tools used to promote the extremist message; all three preachers in fact justify and promote the use of violence (tactics) for the creation of a state administered by divine law (purpose)[79]. Below are some extracts from official statements and wiretappings made public, highlighting the perfect ideological alignment of the different preachers, despite the different generations, ethno-cultural backgrounds and experiences:

(Mullah Krekar) “Anyone has the right to kill the occupation forces in Iraq, especially the Americans. Anyone who has occupied Iraq can be killed” Regarding the expulsion order signed by Erna Solberg, “if a leader like Erna Solberg decide to send me back to Iraq and I should die, she would suffer the same fate… I did not organize plans about it but for sure my followers would do it”[80]. “Finally, on the 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo, “I am obviously happy with what happened in Paris. When a cartoonist tramples on our dignity, our principles and our faith, he must die[81].

(Bilal Bosnic) on jihad, “America had better know I am performing da’wa, God willing, it will be destroyed to its foundations…. with the explosive tied to the chest, we pave the way to paradise”[82]; “It is the duty of every good Muslim to do jihad in any way, fighting, helping, giving assistance, financing“. Moreover, regarding the beheading of James Foley “He was a spy, this is known. In Islam it is acceptable to kill a prisoner if this can frighten the enemy. I understand that it looks atrocious, but we are fighting a war[83].

(Elmahdi Halili) on the legitimacy of attacks against civilians “Any non-Muslim citizen who is part of the coalition bombing the Islamic State is a military target for us[84]. Regarding the Charlie Hebdo attack, “two or three people were killed, including one who insulted the Prophet Muhammad by likening him to a dog. The Sunna says — without a shadow of a doubt — to kill those who insult Muhammad”[85]. Finally, at the time of his arrest, “I go to prison proud of myself, I swear to Allah, you are nothing else but tyrants[86].

These are just few ideological statements, but it is easy to see a common denominator in all the phrasing and line of thought. Sanctifying violence, justifying attacks on civilians and promoting self-immolation to kill scores of presumed “infidels” are in fact recurrent mantras of their ideology. Through these justifications, the anger and aggressiveness possessed by some youngsters (even before they radicalize themselves) do not remain a regrettable factor according to social standards, but is ideologically ennobled by the idea of ​​being part of the Qutbian “Muslim virtuous vanguard” fighting for their ideals[87].

Findings

This research spawned from the assumption that to investigate the origins of any current or future terrorist threat, we have to go back to the milieu that gave rise to such individuals and to the root causes associated with extremism. In this respect, the specific goal of this study was to fill the existing gap in the Italian academic literature regarding the study of extremist ideologues and their influence in radicalizing the last generation of jihadists in Italy.

Although several studies confirmed that the vast majority of the Muslim population in our country is well integrated and maintain moderate religious stances, significant empirical and anecdotal evidence suggests that a few relevant preachers in the Italian salafi-jihadist arena were able to mobilize scores of individuals[88]. It is in fact worth mentioning that these three preachers alone were directly or indirectly connected to the radicalization of at least 12% of the whole Italian FTFs contingent as well as being linked to the radicalization of scores of other individuals in the country[89]

The judicial data also confirm the previous consideration: the sentences given to Mullah Krekar (12 years of imprisonment), Bilal Bosnic (7 years) and Elmahdi Halili (6 and a half years), emphasize these individuals greater social dangerousness inferred by an average imprisonment sentence of eight and a half years, much higher than the average in Europe[90].

Another feature that emerged from the research is today’s “pulverization” of the jihadist scene, with a constant growth of the loose network sympathizers and a decreasing number of individuals formally linked to structured terrorist groups[91]. The informal settings are facilitated by easier access to information via internet, allowing the most charismatic personalities to lead a potentially infinite audience, exploiting faster connection and communication with like-minded individuals[92].

The data also revealed that every local jihadist network is often based on real world previous friendship or kinship relations[93]; pre-existing bonds however, could also be linked to shared political or religious ideologies, common ethnographic origin, collective detainment periods or attendance in conflict zones. Finally, if these relationships are not pre-existing, the very same participation in online networks helps to create identity bonds, through the time spent together[94].

Finally, it must be noted that the mix between online and face-to-face interactions between jihadist recruiters and wannabe mujahidiin usually cross the whole spectrum of possibilities, also based on personal and social situations. Mullah Krekar relied almost exclusively on encrypted communications with his acolytes, mainly because he was detained for some time (and so prevented from traveling), but also due to his advancing age; moreover, his important role among the jihadist leaders allowed him to preach from a computer, without exposing himself in person. Husein Bilal Bosnic instead used a skilled combination of social networks presence with itinerant preaching to reach a wide-ranging audience and still use his personal charisma to recruit and raise funds. Finally, Elmahdi Halili as a present-day ideologue and preacher, was able to reach out to several youngsters through the web, also producing original material supporting ISIS ideology, but later had to reinforce his followers beliefs through “old style” class lectures and sermons in a polarized environment and setting.

Final remarks

This research, intended to focus on the messages spread by some important jihadist preachers operating in Italy in order to understand the influence they had in recruiting individuals in our country. The common characteristics and the features highlighted in the findings will hopefully help in a future structured analysis to understand how to implement a reliable and effective counter narrative to limit the impact of jihadism in our country. Moreover, the findings seems to echo the situation observed in other European countries, thus making this research a tool that could be used by other practitioners and academics alike in assessing  how to set up effective counter-measures.

Intelligence and law enforcement agencies have in fact underlined several times the importance of soft powers activities to counter jihadist propaganda. In periods of societal tension such as those we are experiencing, moderate ideas are often marginalized in favor of more extremist views[95]. Narrative then, becomes increasingly important for members of a group that advances towards extremism, providing their members with the ideological beliefs that further polarize their positions[96]. As perfectly represented by Kurt Braddock, words are loaded weapons and we cannot think of winning the war against violent extremism without understanding the persuasiveness of jihadist propaganda[97].

In Italy, this effort will become increasingly important, also considering that the tool of deportation due to state security reasons (now extensively used) will be less viable in the future. Currently, foreigners residing in Italy who express sympathies for extremist ideologies could be deported back to their country of origin for the threat they represent to the Italian state. This option will not be feasible anymore if the risks associated with the second/third generations Muslim migrants phenomenon will show their effects in our country as they have in other European realities, as we will need a diversified approach to deal with the radicalization of Italian citizens. These youngsters embodies a diversified richness (the traditional Muslim culture of their parents and the Western values with which they are born and raised), that instead of being a positive factor sometimes becomes a sense of inadequacy and non-belonging. Jihadist preachers often exploit these conditions, offering a polarized approach to life and religion, thus providing them with a sense of transnational identity and channeling youthful anger with a perceived holy purpose.

The grey zone of people expressing bitterness, resentment and anger, especially in periods of social unrest, cannot be associated tout-court to terrorism; such grievances and hatred however, necessitate a balanced and thorough assessment and intervention at the social and political level. Prevention of violent extremism will always be important in providing alternative and credible tools to avoid a vague initial interest in extreme ideas from turning into something deeper and potentially dangerous.

Finally, to tackle jihadist violent extremism with a long-term vision, a legislative step must also be taken. The 2015 national bill proposal for countering and preventing jihadist extremism was the first attempt in that direction and the hard work behind it should not be wasted. Italy in fact is still missing a strategic and comprehensive approach to tackle this phenomenon at the ideological level (delegitimizing the jihadist narrative) and on a pragmatic level (to rehabilitate radicalized individuals and re-socialize them)[98].

Above all, however, political, societal and academic institutions should avoid generalizations and stereotyped/misleading definitions, thus avoiding the risk of terms becoming themselves jihadization push factors easily exploited by jihadist propaganda. Fear should be repelled without derogating from our democratic foundations; security and freedom are not two competing instances; it is evident that there is no effective security if freedom is not granted, but is also obvious that there is no freedom if security is not implemented[99].

[1] Disclaimer: all the information originates from open sources and/or personal research and study. The expressed opinions as well as any mistake or inaccuracy in the text should be referred solely to the author. The latter would like to convey a heartfelt thanks for the support and precious suggestions to Milena Uhlmann, researcher and policy advisor to the German Ministry of the Interior for Building and Community, Francesco Bergoglio Errico, anthropologist and researcher and Daniele Maria Barone, Navy officer and researcher.

[2] Al-Qa’ida still retains most of its allure especially within Muslim states, often disillusioned with the local jihadist movements and their failures. A. Moghadam, B. Fishman, “Fault Lines in Global Jihad: Organizational, Strategic, and Ideological Fissures”, Routledge, 2011, p.238

[3] T. Hegghammer, “the Caravan: Abdallah Azzam and the rise of global jihad”, Cambridge University Press, 2020; A. Meleagrou-Hitchens, “Incitement. Anwar al-Awlaki’s western jihad”, Harvard University Press, 2020; D. Byman, “Road warriors. Foreign fighters in the armies of jihad”, Oxford University Press, 2019

[4] Abdallah Yusuf Azzam was a Palestinian scholar that emigrated to Afghanistan at the beginning of the Afghan-Soviet conflict after teaching Islamic religion and fiqh in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. His preaching skills, publications and rhetoric were a fundamental driving force for the jihadist foreign fighters phenomenon in Afghanistan in the 1980’s. Azzam also played an important role in the creation of al-Qa’ida for his close links with Usama bin Ladin. Anwar al-Awlaki was an American citizen of Yemeni descent that acted as an imam, despite having no religious education nor qualification. He was able to influence some of the 9/11 attackers and radicalized many others. His important role in al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and his influence among English speaking audiences (especially though his INSPIRE online magazine) made him the first U.S. citizen to be targeted and killed by a U.S. drone strike without a trial.  

[5] M. Lombardi, B. Lucini, M. Maiolino, “Beyond counter- and alternative narratives to tackle extremism: the new Format model”, in Sicurezza, Terrorismo e Società, n.11, 1/2020, p.20,  http://www.sicurezzaterrorismosocieta.it/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/eBookInterno_SicTerSoc11.pdf

[6] D. Byman, “Road warriors. Foreign fighters in the armies of jihad”, op. cit., p.10-11

[7] A. Boncio, “Foreign fighters italiani. Indicatori di rischio e prevenzione”, Sicurezza Nazionale, January 25, 2017, https://www.sicurezzanazionale.gov.it/sisr.nsf/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Foreign-Fighters-italiani-Boncio.pdf

[8] Faqih (Pl. Fuqaha) is an Islamic Law (Fiqh) and Quranic expert

[9] O. Roy, “Generazione Isis”, Feltrinelli Editore, 2017, pos.38

[10] J. M. Berger, “Extremism”, MIT Press, 2018, pos.1809

[11] Social integration, as expressed by researcher Michele Groppi is here intended as the conciliation, free of existential conflicts, between Islamic identity and Italian society. M. Groppi, “Luci ed ombre: i musulmani d’Italia”, ilmiolibro self publishing, 2019, pos.465

[12] J. M. Berger, “Extremism”, op cit., pos. 539 e ss.

[13] Mullah is a term deriving from the Arab word mawla (vicar, teacher), indicating a person with in-depth knowledge of Islamic law. The term is mainly used in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey and in the Indian subcontinent as an equivalent of the Imam, the person who leads the prayer, or the leader of a mosque.

[14] For a Mullah Krekar biography see “Med Egne Ord (In my own words)”, Ashcehoug, 2004.

[15] A. Bakawan, “Three generations of jihadism in Iraqi Kurdistan”, French Institute of International Relations – IFRI, 2017, p.13, https://www.ifri.org/en/publications/notes-de-lifri/three-generations-jihadism-iraqi-kurdistan

[16] T. Brekke, “Fundamentalism: Prophecy and Protest in an Age of Globalization”, Cambridge University Press, 2011, pp. 101, 102

[17] Maktab al Khidamat can be translated as the Services Bureau, a logistic and operative organization that hosted, trained and sent to battlefield Arab volunteers in the Afghan jihad. The Bureau is widely considered as the precursor of al-Qa’ida. Abdallah Yusuf Azzam is undoubtedly the founder of global jihad and the mentor to Usama bin Ladin. For an accurate biography and to understand the importance of Azzam  today, see T. Heggammer, “the Caravan: Abdallah Azzam and the rise of global jihad”, op. cit.; J. Burke, “Al Qaeda. La vera storia”, Feltrinelli Editore, 2004, p. 224; Q. Lawrence, “Invisible Nation”, Walker Publishing Co., 2008, p.119

[18] M. Krekar, “Med Egne Ord”, op. cit. p.200

[19] J. C. Brisard, D. Martinez “Zarqawi: The New Face of Al-Qaeda”, Polity Press, 2005, p.114

[20] D. Romano, “An Outline of Kurdish Islamist Groups in Iraq”, The Jamestown Foundation, September 2007, p.12, https://jamestown.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/09/Romano-OP.pdf

[21] J. Schanzer, “Al-Qaeda’s Armies.”,  Specialist Press International, 2005, pp.132-136,  https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/pubs/AlQaedasArmies.pdf.pdf.; UNSC, Sanction List – Ansar al-Islam, January 18, 2018,  https://www.un.org/securitycouncil/sanctions/1267/aq_sanctions_list/summaries/entity/ansar-al-islam

[22] A. Bakawan, “Three generations of jihadism in Iraqi Kurdistan”, op. cit. p.15

[23] T. Brekke, “Fundamentalism: Prophecy and Protest in an Age of Globalization”, op. cit., p. 102

[24] Both individuals were sentenced with 10 and 7 years in prison respectively; see judicial act n.13805/2002 RGNR Tribunale di Brescia; for an event reconstruction see S. Rotella, “A Road to Ansar Began in Italy”, Los Angeles Times, April 28, 2003, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2003-apr-28-war-probe28-story.html 

[25] “Milano, arrestati 4 uomini. “Sono legati ad al-Qaeda”, La Repubblica, April 1, 2003, https://www.repubblica.it/online/cronaca/terroislam/terroislam/terroislam.html

[26] Members of al-Zarqawi’s group were stationed in Northern Iraq since 2001, after an greeement and under the protection of Mullah Krekar nel nord dell’Iraq. A. Moghadam, “Nexus of Global Jihad”, Columbia University Press, 2017, p.29

[27] European Parliament question session on March 26, 2013, https://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+WQ+E-2012-001060+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN&language=GA

[28] A. Rabasa, P. Chalk, K. Cragin, S. Daly, H. Gregg, T. Karasik, K. O’Brien, W. Rosenau, “Beyond al-Qaeda: The Global Jihadist Movement”, RAND Corporation, 2006, pp. 139, 140

[29] P. O’Toole, “FBI questions Iraqi Kurd militant”, BBC News, September 27, 2002, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2285703.stm

[30] “Mullah Krekar. Il presunto terrorista non sarà estradato dalla Norvegia”, Panorama, November 3, 2016, https://www.panorama.it/news/mullah-krekar-il-presunto-terrorista-non-sara-estradato-dalla-norvegia

[31] L. Khalil, “The Transformation of Ansar al-Islam”, The Jamestown Foundation, Vol. 3, issue 24, December 21, 2005, https://jamestown.org/program/the-transformation-of-ansar-al-islam/

[32] “Mullah Krekar jailed for five years in Norway”, BBC News, March 26, 2012, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-17515202

[33] P. Matteucci, “Terrorismo, 17 arresti: Merano crocevia aspiranti jihadisti”, La Repubblica, November 12, 2015, https://www.repubblica.it/cronaca/2015/11/12/news/terrorismo_17_arresti_in_operazione_ros-127162363/

[34] Cassazione Penale, Sez. 1 Num. 49128 Year 2018,

[35] ibid., p.6

[36] ibid., p. 3

[37] F.Q., “terrorismo, il mullah Krekar condannato a 12 anni. Pene fino a 9 anni per i componenti della sua cellula”, Il Fatto Quotidiano, July 15, 2019, https://www.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2019/07/15/terrorismo-il-mullah-krekar-condannato-a-12-anni-pene-fino-a-9-anni-per-i-componenti-della-sua-cellula/5325789/; “Terrorismo, estradato in Italia il mullah Krekar”, La Repubblica, March 26, 2020, https://www.repubblica.it/cronaca/2020/03/26/news/terrorismo_estradato_in_italia_il_mullah_krekar-252370087/

[38] A. Pasqualetto, “Il regno di Bilal, terra della sharia nel cuore dell’Europa”, Il Corriere della Sera, December 28, 2015, https://www.dirittiglobali.it/2015/12/80039/

[39] L. Vidino, “il jihadismo autoctono in Italia”, Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale, 2014, pp.31-32, https://www.ispionline.it/it/EBook/Il_jihadismo_autoctono_in_Italia.pdf

[40] E. Becirevic, “Extremism research forum: Bosnia and Herzegovina report” British Council, June 2018, p.18, https://wb-iisg.com/wp-content/uploads/bp-attachments/5595/erf_bih_report_British-Council.pdf

[41] A. Pasqualetto, “Il regno di Bilal, terra della sharia nel cuore dell’Europa”, Il Corriere della Sera, December 28, 2015, https://www.dirittiglobali.it/2015/12/80039/

[42] A. Briganti, “jihadismo di ritorno in Bosnia”, Il Manifesto, January 28, 2020, https://ilmanifesto.it/jihadismo-di-ritorno-in-bosnia/

[43] “Vođa vehabijske zajednice u Bihaću veličao Osamu bin Ladena”, Hercegovinainfo, May 17, 2011, translated from Bosniak via googletranslate, https://www.hercegovina.info/vijesti/vijesti/bih/vodja-vehabijske-zajednice-u-bihacu-velicao-osamu-bin-ladena/

[44] D. Sladojevic, “Vehabijski vođa Bosnić “zvecka” sabljama”, Nezavisne, February 18, 2014, translated from Bosniak via googletranslate, https://www.nezavisne.com/novosti/bih/Vehabijski-vodja-Bosnic-zvecka-sabljama/231587

[45] H. Objavljeno, “Video: Voda Vehabija U BiH Pozvao Na Dzihad ‘Pridružite se islamistima u Iraku i Siriji’”, Jutarnji Viestji, August 19, 2014, translated from Bosniak via googletranslate, https://www.jutarnji.hr/vijesti/svijet/video-voda-vehabija-u-bih-pozvao-na-dzihad-pridruzite-se-islamistima-u-iraku-i-siriji/688819/

[46] W. Mair, “Hermetische Netzwerke”, Der Spiegel, April 2, 2016, https://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-143908138.html;  M. Babic, “Salafism in Bosnia and Herzegovina”, European Institute of the Mediterranean, Yearbook 2017, pag.3, https://www.iemed.org/observatori/arees-danalisi/arxius-adjunts/anuari/med.2017/IEMed_MedYearbook2017_salafism_bosnia_balkans_Babic.pdf; L. Vidino, “Jihadist Radicalization in Switzerland”, Center for Security Studies, 2013, pag.33, https://css.ethz.ch/content/dam/ethz/special-interest/gess/cis/center-for-securities-studies/pdfs/CH_radicalization_report.pdf

[47] G. Giacalone, “Bosnia, Albania, Kosovo: il jihad nei Balcani”, Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale, October 20, 2014, https://www.ispionline.it/sites/default/files/pubblicazioni/commentary_giacalone_20.10.2014.pdf

[48] F. Biloslavo, “La pista da Belluno a Sarajevo. A processo l’imam reclutatore”, Il Giornale, March 26, 2015, http://www.faustobiloslavo.eu/articoli/30824.pdf; “Terrorismo: l’IS nel nordest”, La Nuova di Venezia e Mestre, May 10, 2016, https://ricerca.gelocal.it/nuovavenezia/archivio/nuovavenezia/2016/05/10/venezia-terrorismol-is-nel-nordest-02.html

[49] A. Zorzi, “Non era al servizio dell’Isis. Assolto Ajhan Veapi, 3 anni in cella da innocente”, Corriere del Veneto, September 11, 2019, https://corrieredelveneto.corriere.it/veneto/cronaca/19_settembre_11/tre-anni-cella-innocentenon-era-servizio-dell-isis-2495c004-d45d-11e9-999e-d85e097e975b.shtml; F. Tonacci, “Mestre, arrestato un reclutatore Is”, La Repubblica, February 27, 2016, https://ricerca.repubblica.it/repubblica/archivio/repubblica/2016/02/27/mestre-arrestato-un-reclutatore-is14.html

[50] G. Giacalone, “che cosa insegna l’arresto dell’ex jihadista di Bosnia che manda il figlio nell’ISIS” ITSTIME, January 27, 2018, https://www.itstime.it/w/che-cosa-insegna-larresto-dellex-jihadista-di-bosnia-che-manda-il-figlio-nellisis-by-giovanni-giacalone/

[51] G. Foschini e F. Tonacci, “Bilal Bosnic: “Ci sono italiani nell’Is, conquisteremo il Vaticano”, La Repubblica, August 28, 2014, https://www.repubblica.it/esteri/2014/08/28/news/bilal_bosnic_ci_sono_italiani_nell_is_conquisteremo_il_vaticano-94559220/?refresh_ce

[52] “the failed crusade”, Dabiq n.4, p.17. Documents analyzed by the author, researcher and scholar A.Y. Zelin website www.jihadology.net

[53] G. Giacalone, “Bosnia, Albania, Kosovo: il jihad nei Balcani”, op. cit. p.1

[54] Official Proceedings against Husein Bosnić, S1 2 K 017968 16 Kž 4 of March 28, 2016. English translation available at the Bosnia and Herzegovina Court website: file:///C:/Users/alessandro/Downloads/1481191787S1_2_K_017968_16_Kz_Bosnic_Husein_drugostepena_28_03_2016_eng.pdf; “Condannato reclutatore jihadista Bosnic”, ANSA, June 8, 2016, http://www.ansa.it/veneto/notizie/2016/06/08/condannato-reclutatore-jihadista-bosnic_43dda775-9820-4f1c-8396-d9dc830d6574.html

[55] E. Becirevic, “Extremism research forum: Bosnia and Herzegovina report”, op. cit., p.28

[56] M. Nerozzi, “Torino, affiliato all’Isis condannato a 6 anni e mezzo dalla Corte d’Assise”, Corriere della Sera, June 28, 2019, https://torino.corriere.it/cronaca/19_giugno_28/torino-affiliato-all-isis-condannato-6-anni-corte-d-assise-4317413e-99ab-11e9-8b1c-f8f873f23524.shtml

[57] C. Bertolotti, “L’aspirante ideologo italiano dello Stato islamico”, REACT2020. Rapporto sul terrorismo e il radicalismo in Europa, Vol. 1 n.1, 2020, p.45 https://www.startinsight.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/react2020_web.pdf

[58] E. De Blasi, “Torino: la vita mimetizzata in provincia del militante dell’Isis”, La Repubblica, March 28, 2018, https://torino.repubblica.it/cronaca/2018/03/28/news/torino_la_vita_mimetizzata_in_provincia_del_militante_dell_isis-192407877/

[59] B. Fossati, “Il reclutatore di lupi solitari”, CronacaQui, March 29, 2018, https://www.cronacaqui.it/il-reclutatore-di-lupi-solitari/

[60] “Terrorismo, polizia arresta 23enne italomarocchino: “Fa parte dell’Isis”“, Today, March 28, 2018, http://www.today.it/cronaca/elmahdi-halili-terrorista-arrestato-torino.html

[61] “LʼIsis diffonde il primo documento completamente in italiano” TGCOM 24, February 28, 2015, https://www.tgcom24.mediaset.it/mondo/l-isis-diffonde-il-primo-documento-completamente-in-italiano_2098135-201502a.shtml

[62] C. Bertolotti, “L’aspirante ideologo italiano dello Stato islamico”, op. cit. p.46

[63] Cassazione Penale, Sez. 1 Num. 41628 Anno 2019; N. Spagna, “La grande rete del terrorismo jihadista e l’Italia”, ITSTIME, April 13, 2016, https://www.itstime.it/w/la-grande-rete-del-terrorismo-jihadista-e-litalia-by-nicolo-spagna/

[64] Cassazione Penale Sez. 1 Num. 47489 Anno 2015; L. Fazzo,””Alto rischio attentati”. Primi tre arresti per Sharia for Italy”, Il Giornale, March 26, 2015, https://www.ilgiornale.it/news/politica/alto-rischio-attentati-primi-tre-arresti-sharia-italy-1109680.html

[65] F. Farinelli, F. Bergoglio Errico, A. Cossiga, E. Colarossi, “Comprendere la radicalizzazione jihadista. Il caso Italia”, UniversItalia, 2019, p.109

[66] R. Rotondo, Farò ricorso contro l’espulsione, ma difendo il Califfato”, Varese News, February 12, 2015, https://www.varesenews.it/2015/02/faro-ricorso-contro-l-espulsione-ma-difendo-il-califfato/350317/

[67] L. Fazzo, “La nostra vittoria è vicina”. Così parlano i jihadisti d’Italia”, Il Giornale, March 27, 2015, https://www.ilgiornale.it/news/politica/nostra-vittoria-vicina-cos-parlano-i-jihadisti-ditalia-1110073.html

[68] M. Peggio, “Studiava attentati con camion bomba nel nome di Allah”, La Stampa, March 29, 2018, https://www.lastampa.it/cronaca/2018/03/29/news/studiava-attentati-con-camion-bomba-nel-nome-di-allah-1.33998493

[69] F. Bergoglio Errico, “A Case Study of the Jihadi Indoctrination Process: Method and Content”, European Eye on Radicalization, May 22, 2020, https://eeradicalization.com/a-case-study-of-the-jihadi-indoctrination-process-method-and-content/

[70] S. Martinenghi, “Inneggiava all’Isis e diffondeva sermoni: 6 anni al marocchino Elmahdi Halili”, La Repubblica, June 28, 2019, https://torino.repubblica.it/cronaca/2019/06/28/news/inneggiava_all_isis_e_diffondeva_sermoni_6_anni_al_marocchino_elmahdi_halili-229872222/

[71] C. Bertolotti, “L’aspirante ideologo italiano dello Stato islamico”, Op. cit.

[72] C. Daimon, J. De Roy Van Zuijdewijn, D. Malet, “Career Foreign Fighters: Expertise Transmission Across Insurgencies”, Resolve Network, April 2020, p.26

[73] T. Hegghammer, “The caravan”, op cit. , p.244

[74] T. Hegghammer, “The caravan”, op cit. , p.300

[75] M. Lombardi, B. Lucini, M. Maiolino, “Beyond counter- and alternative narratives to tackle extremism: the new Format model”, op. cit., p.19; A. W Kruglanski, et al., “The psychology of radicalization and deradicalization: How significance quest impacts violent extremism” Political Psychology, 35 (Suppl. 1), 2014,p. 69–93  

[76] A. Meleagrou-Hitchens, “Incitement. Anwar al-Awlaki’s western jihad”, op. cit., pos.166-397

[77] E. Becirevic, “Extremism Research Forum – Bosnia and Herzegovina Report”, op. cit., p.29

[78] Neologism used by criminologist Arije Antinori to define an existential condition characterized by a blurred distinction between real and virtual while executing daily activities.

[79] F. Farinelli, F. Bergoglio Errico, A. Cossiga, E. Colarossi, “Comprendere la radicalizzazione jihadista. Il caso Italia”, op. cit. p.101

[80] “Mullah Krekar meets the press”, News in English, June 10, 2010, https://www.newsinenglish.no/2010/06/10/mullah-krekar-meets-the-press/

[81] AFP, “Norway arrests radical preacher who praised Charlie Hebdo killers”, Egypt Independent, February 28, 2015, https://egyptindependent.com/norway-arrests-radical-preacher-who-praised-charlie-hebdo-killers/

[82] G. N. Bardos, “From the Balkans to ISIS. Militant Islamism in southeastern Europe”, SEERECON, December 2014, p.15 http://seerecon.com/wp-content/themes/seerecon/images/seerecon-report-web.pdf

[83] S. Bacchetta, “Bilal Bosnic, dalla Guerra in Bosnia alla jihad. Ritratto di un predicatore italiano”, Il Fatto Quotidiano, September 4, 2014, https://www.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2014/09/04/bilal-bosnic-dalla-guerra-in-bosnia-alla-jihad-ritratto-di-un-predicatore-italiano/1110659/

[84] C. Berolotti, “L’aspirante “ideologo” italiano dello Stato islamico”, op. cit. p.46

[85] F. Bergoglio Errico, “A Case Study of the Jihadi Indoctrination Process: Method and Content”, op. cit.

[86] F. Colombo, “Terrorismo, Halili e la rete di lupi solitari”, Radio Lombardia, March 28, 2018, https://www.radiolombardia.it/2018/03/28/47701/

[87] Sayyid Qutb, Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood ideologue, is widely considered to be the father of modern jihadism; in his most important book (Ma’alim fi al-tariq – Milestones, 1964), he hoped for the advent of a Muslim enlightened vanguard who, through jihad, would overthrow Arab tyrants, guilty of not implementing Koranic law. S. Qutb, “Milestones”, Islamic Book Service, 2008, p.12

[88] M. Groppi, “Luci ed ombre: i musulmani d’Italia”, op. cit.

[89] 17 out of 141 foreign terrorist fighters can be linked to the three preachers analyzed in this paper. Moreover, several other individuals were deported due to extremist ideas and possession of jihadist material attributable to Krekar, Bosnic or Halili.

[90] The European average sentence for jihadi terrorism related charges is of five years of imprisonment. Terrorism Situation and Trend Report – TE-SAT, Europol, 2020 p.30, https://www.europol.europa.eu/activities-services/main-reports/european-union-terrorism-situation-and-trend-report-te-sat-2020

[91] M. Lombardi, “Ripensare il terrorismo per combattere un nemico che perdura”, op. cit. p.43; Terrorism Situation and Trend Report – TE-SAT, op. cit. p.41

[92] A. Moghadam, “Nexus of Global Jihad”, op. cit. pp.43-48

[93] Terrorism Situation and Trend Report – TE-SAT, op. cit. p.41

[94] A. Moghadam, “Nexus of Global Jihad”, op. cit. pp.59-60

[95] A. Anas, “To the Mountains”, Hurst Publishers & Co., 2019, p.220

[96] J. M. Berger, “Extremism”, op. cit., pos. 1095

[97] K. Braddock, “Weaponized Words”, Cambridge University Press, 2020, pos. 349

[98] A. Manciulli, “Il futuro del terrorismo di matrice jihadista. Evoluzione della minaccia, strumenti di contrasto e strategie di prevenzione”, in Contrasto al Terrorismo Internazionale, n.4. Società Italiana per l’Organizzazione Internazionale, 2019, pp.640-641, http://www.startinsight.eu/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/reportterrorismo127401.pdf; A. Boncio, “Disfatta ISIS e Foreign Fighters di ritorno: il caso italiano”, Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale, November 6, 2017, pp.20-21,  https://www.ispionline.it/it/pubblicazione/disfatta-isis-e-foreign-fighters-di-ritorno-il-caso-italiano-18575

[99] Former Ministry of Interior M. Minniti, preface to A. Manciulli, “Sconfiggere il terrorismo. L’evoluzione della minaccia jihadista e gli strumenti legislativi di contrasto”, Camera dei Deputati, 2017, pos.54