Italian police yesterday arrested Abdelmajid Touil, a 22-year old Moroccan whom authorities believe may have been involved in March’s terrorist attack on Tunisia’s Bardo museum. The attack left 22 people dead, and was claimed by ISIS (though others also claimed responsibility). Touil reportedly attempted to enter Italy in February, was refused, and returned to Tunisia where he helped execute the attack. The details on his second trip to Italy are sketchy, but it’s how he got to Europe the first time that’s generating controversy:
Italian investigators, acting on information from intelligence services, determined that Mr. Touil reached Sicily on a boat with another 90 migrants on Feb. 17, 2015, and that his mother and two brothers had been living legally in Italy for years. It was not immediately clear if he had left Italy after he arrived in February. Mr. Touil is expected to be extradited to Tunisia.
“He was not previously known to us,” Bruno Megale, the chief antiterrorism investigator in Milan, said at news conference. “He had only been identified a month before in Porto Empedocle. And he was then ordered expelled.”
As debate in Europe over migrant policy heats up, this story has raised fears that terrorists could slip into the continent alongside refugees and migrants. As a leader of the center-right party Forza Italia put it, “It is now clear that extremist terrorists use our country as a logistical base. We need strong action, also after the uncertainties of many European countries. We need to immediately stop the landings in Italy.”As Walter Russell Mead has written, helping persecuted minorities who are fleeing the violence in the Middle East find new homes is one of only two ways the West can help those groups. But stories like this could make it harder to build consensus around that approach, bringing us one step closer to the tragic possibility recently mentioned by WRM, where we in the West doesn’t act but just “wring our hands and weep piously as the ancient Christian communities in Syria and Iraq are murdered, raped, and starved into oblivion, one by one.”