Convicted terrorist arrested among migrants on boat bound for Europe

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Italian police last month detained a convicted terrorist who was hiding among asylum seekers on a boat from Libya.

Police in Sicily confirmed that they detained Ben Nasr Mehdi, a Tunisian who was first arrested in Italy in November 2007 and was expelled from the country after his release from prison.

 Ben Nasr Mehdi
Ben Nasr Mehdi

Mehdi had been sentenced to seven years for plotting attacks for a terrorist organization that has since been linked to Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), Italian officials said.

Italian police arrested Mehdi on Oct. 4 after he arrived with a group of 200 migrants at the island of Lampedusa, off Sicily. Mehdi gave a false name to authorities but was identified through fingerprints.

The arrest contradicts a statement by Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, who had insisted there was no evidence terrorists were attempting to sneak into Europe aboard migrant boats.

Abdul Basit Haroun, an officials with the internationally recognized Libyan government based in Tobruk, told the BBC in May that ISIL jihadists were being smuggled into Europe by gangs in the Mediterranean. Other military officials, including NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, have expressed similar concerns.

Italian authorities said Mehdi is an explosives expert and a contact for terror groups that recruit jihadists from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2007, Mehdi was arrested in Novellara, northern Italy where police seized poisons, remote explosive detonators and manuals on guerrilla warfare. He was captured then along with 13 Algerians and Tunisians across Europe as part of an anti-terrorism operation led by Italian authorities.

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