(MENAFN - Trend News Agency) Italy has arrested 15 suspected members of a gang that smuggled criminals, terrorists, and tobacco from Tunisia to Sicily, Xinhua reports according to police.
"The Special Operations Group (ROS) has served arrest warrants on 15 suspects, believed to be responsible for instigation to commit crimes of terrorism (and) racketeering for purposes of abetting illegal immigration," Italy's Carabinieri military police tweeted.
The Carabinieri ROS division deals with organized crime and terrorism.
According to private broadcaster Sky TG24, the investigation that led to the arrests was sparked by testimony from a Tunisian informant, who alerted authorities of the existence of a gang that was smuggling Tunisian criminals and terrorism suspects into Sicily.
Those arrested include 13 Tunisians and two Italians who are accused of cigarette smuggling, and the gang's Tunisian ringleader had posted videos of decapitations and Islamic State (IS) propaganda on Facebook, according to Sky TG24.
The informant told investigators he spoke out to prevent "an army of kamikazes (suicide bombers)" ending up in Italy, according to Italian news agency ANSA.
He added that the gang was equipped with speedboats and that the trip to Sicily cost around 10,000 Tunisian dinars (3,400 U.S. dollars), ANSA reported.
Palermo anti-terrorism prosecutors believe the gang is a threat to national security because they are capable of providing fast, safe sea passage to people who are being sought by Tunisian authorities or who are terrorism suspects, ANSA said.
"My congratulations to the ROS Carabinieri...for today's anti-terrorism operation. The country is proud of you," Defense Minister Elisabetta Trenta tweeted.
"No way are we letting more in or going to pick them up with boats and planes, we're at work to send quite a few home," Interior Minister Matteo Salvini tweeted from Poland, where he met Wednesday with his Polish counterpart Joachim Brudzkinski.
"Migrant smugglers and terrorists: go home!!!" tweeted Salvini, who has cracked down on immigration and shut down Italy's ports to humanitarian vessels carrying rescued asylum seekers.
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