Italy identifies alleged prison 'jihadist recruiter'
ROME - Italian authorities said Tuesday they had identified an alleged jihadist recruiter operating in prison, two weeks after it emerged suspected Berlin truck bomber Anis Amri may have been radicalised in a Sicilian jail.
Tunisian national Saber Hmidi, 34, was formally arrested in connection with new charges while serving a three year, eight months sentence for possession of an illegal weapon and assaulting a police officer.
"His goal was to send fellow prisoners into conflict theatres once they were released," said Augusto Zaccariello of the Italian prison police.
Wiretaps of Hmidi's phone conversations also suggested he planned to travel to Syria after his release, but that he was not plotting any terrorist attacks in Italy, the officer told a press conference.
Only a handful of Italian residents are known to have joined jihadist groups in the Middle East and the country is not seen as having a significant problem with homegrown Islamist militancy.
But Amri's case has focused attention on the possibility that some of Italy's prisons could be breeding grounds for jihadism.
Amri allegedly rammed a truck into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin on December 19, killing 12 people.
He was killed in a shootout with Italian police four days later, having returned to the country where he had earlier served a four-year prison sentence.