Washington, DC, May. 10 (UPI) — It’s September 29, 2003 and Adel is frustrated. “I’ve just spoken to Sheikh Rashid and he said there’s no decision on my going to Iraq. What are they waiting for?” The person at the other end of the phone line murmurs words of encouragement.
Months later, Adel still waits. “Sheikh, don’t think that I haven’t considered alternatives to this path,” he tells Mahamri Rashid, the imam of Florence in another phone conversation. “But I wouldn’t change my mind even if they covered me with gold. I wouldn’t change it for anything. I lie awake at night thinking about it. It’s a huge universal project.”
In another phone conversation in early March of this year Adel tells a friend, “In a month we will be martyrs at last.”
But others were also listening to these conversations, and early Sunday morning Italian intelligence agents arrested Adel and three other Tunisians along with Mahamri Rashid, the imam of Florence. All have been charged under Italy’s anti-terrorism laws.
Italian authorities said Rashid recruited young Arabs to become suicide bombers and fighters linked to al-Qaida the terrorist group, and sent them to Iraq. The other four arrested were his most recent would-be martyrs. According to press accounts, investigators had stepped in to make the arrests days before the Tunisians were due to depart for Yemen and Syria where they would have been given weapons and explosives before being smuggled into Iraq.
The arrest was the result of a long investigation involving numerous wiretaps, some of which were published in newspapers Sunday and Monday. The Italian government intensified its anti-terrorist campaign following the March 11 bombings in Madrid. This particular investigation was already underway at the time, but after Madrid the authorities feared that the terrorists were planning to attack targets in Italy.
This fear intensified when, in a discussion about the Madrid attack, one of the Tunisians said, “If we were to stage an attack in Italy we could hit the Giglio commercial center (in Florence) or the movie complex across from it and we would kill thousands of people.”
But from the start their destination was Iraq. As quoted in La Repubblica and Corriere della Sera the recorded phone exchanges provide a chilling insight into the gradual process of bending their minds towards “martyrdom” in the cause of Islam.