Italy arrests Pakistanis linked to 2020 Charlie Hebdo attack

Italy arrests Pakistanis linked to 2020 Charlie Hebdo attack
A sting operation by Italian police and Europol led to the arrests of several Pakistanis linked to Zaheer Hassan Mahmood, the Pakistani man who attacked two people near the former offices of Charlie Hebdo in 2020.
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Italian police have apprehended several Pakistanis with links to a man who carried out an attack in Paris in 2020 [Getty]

Italy's anti-terrorism police and Europol on Tuesday arrested Pakistanis suspected of links to the man who attacked two people near the former offices of France's Charlie Hebdo magazine in 2020. 

The sting led to "arrests in Italy and abroad of Pakistani citizens with direct ties" to Zaheer Hassan Mahmood, a Pakistani man who attacked two people with a meat cleaver weeks after the magazine republished controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, Italian police said.

It did not say how many were arrested.

Europol's European Counter Terrorism Centre coordinated the operation along with anti-terrorism police in France and Spain, according to police in Genoa in northwest Italy, where a judge signed 14 arrest warrants concerning offences related to "international terrorism".

Genoa's local Il Secolo XIX daily said at least eight of the arrest warrants had been carried out in Italy against people belonging to "a network of Islamic extremists... who were plotting attacks".

The probe began in Genoa because one of the suspects lives in the area, but months of "wiretaps, stake-outs, tailing suspects and comparing numerous data with police in other countries" revealed other members of the gang in other parts of Italy, France and Spain, it said.

The investigation continues into others with alleged ties to those targeted by Tuesday's sting, it added.

Mahmood injured two people during the 2020 attack, which came five years after 12 members of staff at the satirical weekly were gunned down for publishing the cartoons, which are considered blasphemous by many Muslims.

In 2015, Islamist militants forced their way into Charlie Hebdo's offices in Paris, killing 12 people and injuring 11 others.