Suspected leaders and several members of Rawti Shax, a terrorist organization of Kurdish-Sunni origin, were arrested today during an action that took place simultaneously in Italy, the United Kingdom, Norway, Finland, Germany and Switzerland with cooperation of police and judicial authorities of the countries involved and coordinated by Eurojust – the European Union’s judicial cooperation unit. The arrested persons are charged with international terrorism.
The network was allegedly plotting to free its leader, Mullah Krekar, who is in detention in Norway. Krekar came to Norway as a refugee in 1991 and was jailed in 2012 for making death threats against officials and others. He was arrested again in February 2015 after praising the Charlie Hebdo attack during a television interview. Under Norwegian law, Krekar cannot be deported as he could face the death penalty in his native Iraq.
In addition, the cell – which had developed on the dark web – is reported to have been involved in recruiting foreign fighters.
Today’s international police operation was launched by the Italian ROS Carabinieri under the direction of the Public Prosecution Office in Rome. The investigations and continuous cooperation have been ongoing for years in Italy as well as in other European countries, particularly Switzerland and Germany, progressively revealing the structure and operations of this terrorist organization.
Rawti Shax or Didi Nwe (the "new course" or "towards the mountain") represents an evolution of Ansar Al Islam, which is listed by the United Nations as a terrorist organization affiliated with Al Qaeda. Its primary objective is to violently overthrow the current Iraqi Kurdish government and replace it with a caliphate governed by Sharia law.
According to the Italian investigation, unlike Ansar Al Islam, Rawti Shax arose and is rooted in Europe, with cells communicating and operating via the Internet with a structure especially active in Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Finland, Italy, Greece, Sweden, Norway, Iraq, Iran and Syria.
Eurojust said that as the group evolved, it became active in providing logistical and financial support to recruiting foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) to be sent to Syria and Iraq, also with the intent of training them for the future conflict in Kurdistan.
A coordination center was held at Eurojust under the leadership of the Italian Desk to manage international cooperation among the authorities involved in this joint operation. Thirteen were arrested in Italy, Norway and the United Kingdom. In addition, the Italian, German, Finnish, Norwegian, Swiss and UK authorities conducted searches of 26 premises and seized several items, including electronic devices and documents. Some suspects could not be located, as they are believed to have traveled to the Middle East (Syria and Iraq) to join jihadist organizations (namely ISIS and al-Nusra) as FTFs.
Teresa-Angela Camelio, Eurojust Assistant to the National Member for Italy, said, "The level of cooperation provided by all the authorities involved in this case has been truly exceptional. Everybody’s contribution has been essential to the success of the operation. The commitment and professionalism of judicial and police forces, facilitated through the Police Working Group on Terrorism (PWGT), ensured a solid investigative foundation. The efficient and continuous collaboration between the magistrates dealing with this case, at national level and through their Eurojust Desks and liaison magistrates, with the invaluable assistance of the Eurojust Case Analysis Unit, secured this positive outcome."