ROME: Italy’s anti-terrorism police and Europol on Tuesday arrested Pakistanis suspected of links to the man who attacked France’s Charlie Hebdo magazine in 2020.

The sting led to “arrests in Italy and abroad of Pakis­tani citizens with direct ties” to Zaheer Hassan Mahmood, a Pakistani man accused of attacking two people with a meat cleaver weeks after the magazine republished controversial cartoons of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), Italian police said.

It did not say how many were arrested.

Europol’s European Counter Terrorism Centre coordinated the operation along with anti-terrorism police in France and Spain, according to police in Genoa in north-western Italy, where a judge signed 14 arrest warrants concerning offences related to “international terrorism”.

Genoa’s Il Secolo XIX daily said eight of the arrest warrants had been carried out in Italy against people belonging to “a network of Islamic extremists... who were plotting attacks”.

The probe began in Genoa because one of the suspects lives in the area, but months of “wiretaps, stakeouts, tailing suspects and comparing numerous data with police in other countries” revealed other members of the gang in other parts of Italy, France and Spain, it said.

The investigation continues into others with alleged ties to those targeted in Tuesday’s sting, it added.

Mahmood injured two people during the 2020 attack, which came five years after 12 members of staff at the satirical weekly were gunned down for publishing the cartoons.

Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2022

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