Abderrahim Moutaharrik

Abderrahim Moutaharrik

In December 2021, the Justice of the Peace at the Court of Bari ordered the transfer of Abderrahim Moutaharrik, an Italian-Moroccan citizen born in 1988, to the city’s expulsion centre, from where he will be returned to his homeland of Morocco. The move will take place as soon as the pandemic-related closures on the borders are lifted. Mr Moutaharrik was sentenced to six years in jail with the charge of international terrorism, serving five years, seven months, and twenty days in the ‘High Security 2’ (AS2) levels of the Sassari and Rossano prisons. His expulsion from Italy was also a result of his Italian citizenship being revoked.

In April 2016, the DIGOS of Lecco detained him, his wife, and two other people who lived in the area between Lecco, Verbania, and Varese. In February 2019, the Judge of the Preliminary Hearing (GUP) in Milan imposed a six-year sentence on the defendant, and three years and four months on his wife Salma Bencharki, who was also expelled in August 2019 and repatriated to Morocco for security reasons, along with Wafa Koraichi. Finally, Abderrahmane Kachia, a Moroccan citizen, received a sentence of five years and four months.

According to the Milan court decision, Moutaharrik, dubbed “the ISIS boxer” for his kickboxing talents, was hell-bent on carrying out terrorist operations against Westerners. Furthermore, he and the other defendants were motivated “by a warped theological ideology and a widespread hatred of members of any other religious confession, which had driven them to declare themselves ready to act at the risk of their lives.” The evidence revealed that an attack on the Vatican and the Israeli embassy in Rome was likely imminent.

The married couple had planned a trip to territories controlled by the so-called Islamic State (IS), taking their two minor children (born in 2012 and 2014) and indoctrinating them by listening to nasheed praising jihad, as well as repeating several times that only IS fighters were true Muslims and that attacking the West was necessary. Moutaharrik’s enthusiasm for jihad and the Islamic State was on display during a Thai boxing match, where he wore a black T-shirt with the Islamic State symbol.

According to the Court of Milan’s order, Oussama’s killing was the event that allegedly influenced his friends Abderrahim and Abderrahmane’s choice to join the terrorist group in Syria. Abderrahim had already asked Oussama to join them in the war zones, even if only for a short period. He could not join his friend right away since he had to wait six months for the tazkya, the recommendation required to enter IS-controlled territory.

Abderrahim’s acquaintances were certainly an important factor in his radicalisation process, especially his relationship with Oussama, Abderrahmane, as well as the entire Khachia family, and the ideological references for his radicalisation pathway were also impacted by his exposure to violent Salafist-jihadist proclamations, songs, and videos.

Abderrahim and Abderrahmane got the tazkya, known as the ‘poetry bomb,’ from a Sheikh on April 8, 2016, with the help of his wife and his friend Wafa Koraichi. The tazkya contained words of encouragement to stay in Italy and attack the unfaithful in the country that had accepted them.

Despite the encouragement of another Foreign Fighter friend, Mohamed Koraichi, the difficulties of locating weapons, particularly explosives, as well as Moutaharrik’s fear for his children, posed a serious impediment to the planned attacks. He was afraid of retaliation against his children in the event of an attack, but he claimed he would be willing to take such action if he could bring his family to Islamic State-controlled territory.

The police’s timely intervention not only prevented the two Moroccans from planning a terrorist assault but also halted the radicalisation of the two children. Abderrahim Moutaharrik’s court case finished six years later with the loss of his Italian citizenship and parental responsibility for his children, who had been with their grandparents for several years.