Italian islam convert killed fighting for Syrian rebels

20-year-old was under investigation for terrorist recruitment

18 June, 18:09

    (by Christopher Livesay).

    (ANSAmed) - GENOA, JUNE 18 - A 20-year-old from the northwestern port city of Genoa who had converted to Islam has died in Syria while fighting with rebels against the government of Bashar al-Assad.

    The death of Giuliano Ibrahim Delnevo, a student, was first reported by Milan daily Il Giornale on Tuesday and subsequently confirmed by ANSA sources. Delnevo, who had taken the name Ibrahim along with his new faith, had posted passages of the Koran on his Facebook page along with a photograph of Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, known as the 'Father of Global Jihad' who inspired Osama bin Laden to take up fundamentalist offensive jihad.

    His family reportedly had no ties to Islam. According to Il Giornale he taken up with the ''most extremist Syrian rebels''.

    Prosecutors later revealed Delnevo was under investigation in Genoa for terrorist recruitment at the time of his death. According to sources, the probe had been ongoing for months. Authorities said he went to Syria towards the end of 2012, though he had already made contact with extremist groups there in mid-2012. Investigators are looking into whether Delnevo was trained in Italy. Prosecutors said ''there are other suspects who are not from Genova''.

    But Italy's Security Intelligence Department (DIS) was quick to assure there was no major risk of widespread terrorist recruitment in the country. ''There is not a concentration of recruitment, just a few individuals,'' said DIS Director Giampiero Massolo. The imam of Genoa told ANSA he remembers seeing Delnevo. ''He didn't come to pray in our center, but I remember seeing him at some of our events, because he was dressed like a sufi,'' Salah Hussein said, noting a long white tunic and a Qizilbash, a traditional crimson hat. The head of the Italian Union of Islamic Communities and Organizations (UCOI) on Tuesday distanced his group from the young radical, which the media has dubbed ''the Italian jihadist''. ''Our role as men and women of faith, just as other faiths, is to work together to send a message of co-existence and not to leave space for personal interpretations of divine messages,'' said Ezzedine Elzir. ''I don't know this boy, and I know that (the Muslim community) in Genoa didn't know him... ''I don't believe he was converted here in Italy''.

    Delnevo is not the first Italian citizen to be linked to extremist Islam. But the fact that he was born and raised in a Catholic country to Italian parents and not to parents from a majority-Muslim country makes him stand out. Less surprising was the arrest last week of a 21-year-old Italian of Moroccan descent in Brescia for allegedly running the Italian branch of a Belgium-based Islamist organisation under suspicion of planning attacks in Italy. (ANSAmed).

    © Copyright ANSA - All rights reserved