The Hague, 12 November 2015
Suspected leaders and several members of Rawti Shax, a terrorist organisation of Kurdish-Sunni origin, were arrested during an action that took place simultaneously in Italy, the UK, Norway, Finland, Germany and Switzerland, with the cooperation of the police and judicial authorities of the countries involved, and coordinated by Eurojust. The arrested persons are charged with international terrorism.
Today’s 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 organisation.
Rawti Shax or Didi Nwe (the ‘new course’ or ‘towards the mountain’) represents an evolution of Ansar Al Islam, which is listed by the UN as a terrorist organisation 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 active especially in Germany, Switzerland, the UK, Finland, Italy, Greece, Sweden, Norway, Iraq, Iran and Syria. 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.
During the common action day, a coordination centre was held at Eurojust, under the leadership of the Italian Desk, to manage international cooperation among the authorities involved in this joint operation. A total of 13 persons were arrested in Italy, Norway and the UK. 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 travelled to the Middle East (Syria and Iraq) to join jihadist organisations (namely ISIS and al-Nusra) as FTFs.
Thanks to the excellent cooperation by the national authorities involved, the Italian officials were able to assist with the operations in the UK, Norway and Finland. For the first time, a representative from ROS Carabinieri attended a Eurojust coordination centre to liaise with the other Italian officials located abroad.
Eurojust has supported the international cooperation activities required by the investigations targeting this terrorist group since 2011.
Coordination meetings to facilitate the exchange of information among the competent authorities and the execution of requests for mutual legal assistance were organised by Eurojust. These gatherings also provided the opportunity for the Member States involved to discuss the most efficient common judicial strategy and response to this terrorist group.
Over the past few months, an extensive amount of information from the Italian investigation was analysed by the Eurojust Case Analysis Unit to identify the most important aspects for the Member States involved in the upcoming operation.
A coordination meeting was organised by the Italian Desk in September. Issues regarding the execution of the requested judicial measures were discussed and clarified in preparation for the action day, including the identification of the competent authorities, and the formulation of European arrest warrants, extradition procedures, etc. Draft rogatory letters were exchanged to verify that all legal and technical requirements were fulfilled so that they could be executed without delay. All these activities paved the way for the excellent cooperation between the authorities involved in today’s operation and will be crucial in the next steps in this complex case.
Ms Teresa-Angela Camelio, Assistant to the National Member for Italy, commented: ‘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.’
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