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Who is Youssef Zaghba, the Italian-Moroccan London Bridge attacker

by Ivan Cimmarusti

Prosecutors in Bologna have opened an investigation into the Italian network linked to the London Bridge attack on Saturday night. And an anti-terrorism inquiry is also awaited. The third attacker is Italian-Moroccan Youssef Zaghba, 22, who was stopped in March 2016 at Bologna airport, where he was about to board a direct flight to Istanbul.

The detention in Bologna in 2016
Zaghba was detained on suspicion that he wanted to join the Islamic State, and was held as he was on the verge of leaving for Turkey. Police found images on his cell phone that suggested links to international terrorism, and for this reason the Italian Digos anti-terror police in Bologna detained him.

The detention was then revoked and Zaghba was not deported because he was a holder of an Italian passport. His mother lives as an official resident in Bologna. The young man was stopped under suspicious circumstances: he was carrying only a small backpack, his passport, and a one-way ticket to Turkey.

Prosecutor Giovannini asked for him to be held

The young man, who has a Moroccan father currently living in his native land, and an Italian mother, was checked at the boarding gates and gave no explanation of the reasons for his journey nor his destination, and he started to become agitated. An alert was sent to the Bologna Deputy Prosecutor Valter Giovannini, who at the time was a coordinator of the terrorism group of the prosecutor’s office. He intervened directly to prevent Zaghba from boarding, awaiting checks. When asked by investigators, Zaghba’s mother, who still lives in Bologna, said that her son had told her he was heading to Rome.

Prosecutors called for the seizure of his passport, his cell phone and the computer at his home, which they searched.

He was monitored by Italian intelligence, who say an update was sent to London.
No particularly unusual elements emerged from the Italian investigation, apart from a few religious documents, downloaded from fundamentalist websites. The young man, who missed his flight, was then released.

After this episode at Bologna airport, Zaghba was monitored by Italian intelligence, who noted that he did not live regularly in Italy, and in fact his presence was limited to brief visits. Otherwise he moved between Morocco and Britain.

According to Italian authorities, an update was sent to London after his detention in Bologna. However, British security services said on Tuesday that they did not have any evidence that the Italian authorities had passed on information about him.