Imam arrested in Italy, suspected of planning Rome terror attack

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ROME (RNS) A Somali imam has reportedly been arrested in Italy on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack in Rome.

The 22-year-old imam, who was not named, was arrested Wednesday (March 9) in the southern Italian city of Campobasso after a two-month police investigation.

Authorities believed he was about to leave a migration center where he was living while seeking asylum and travel to the Italian capital to carry out an attack.

His intended target was reportedly Rome’s main train station; authorities have previously said Pope Francis and the Vatican could be high-profile targets for extremists, but Vatican officials say sufficient precautions have been taken.

The imam attempted to convert fellow asylum seekers to Islam and preached extremist messages, prompting some people to walk out of prayer meetings, according to the Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

The Somali reportedly praised terrorist groups such as the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), al-Qaida and al-Shabab. He also allegedly praised the November terrorist attacks in Paris, in which gunmen killed 130 people.

As part of their investigation, police installed a hidden camera in the suspect’s room, which captured him watching videos with images of attacks, Corriere reported.

(Rosie Scammell writes for RNS from Rome)