Giuliano Delnevo

Giuliano Delnevo

Giuliano Delnevo was born on the 18th of February 1989 to a middle-class family in Genoa. As the parents were separated, Giuliano initially lived with his father. He attended the nautical high school with poor results in scientific subjects but fared otherwise decently. He apparently had some relational difficulties, and it was during these years that he befriended the Moroccan national Amine Aboutafik. With him, he decided to drop out of school during his fourth year in 2008, with the project of joining his older brother in Ancona and working at the shipyards. There, Amine introduced him to the son of the president of the regional section of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy, Mohamed Soubhi Dachan, and met members of the Tabligh Eddawa, an Islamic association dedicated to the conversion of non-muslims or non-practising Muslims back to the “true faith”. This is likely why he had converted to a radical interpretation of Islam. Once converted, he adopted the name “Ibrahim”, started wearing traditional Muslim clothing, and grew a long beard.

In 2009, after understanding that he did not want to work at the shipyards, he went back to Genoa, where he asked his father to convert to Islam too. During this year, he also started posting on YouTube videos under the nickname “Italian muslim”, an element that prompted Italian authorities to start monitoring him, as the videos showcased a possible process of radicalisation. In Genoa, he also used to see Andrea “Umar” Lazzaro, another Italian national who converted in 2006, had relations with numerous other converted Italians, and managed an online forum called “discussions on Islam”, that, at various points, gathered many of the most notorious Italian foreign terrorist fighters: Bombonati and Cascio, but also other converts: Randazzo, Sergio, and Bosco. Lazzaro also introduced Delnevo to the local Imams of Genoa.

In 2010, he finished high school and entered a Bachelor’s program in History, although without ever doing exams. Then, between December 2010 and January 2011, Delnevo went with Lazzaro to the Madrasa in Dewsbury, called Islamic Tarbiyah Academy, where the two underwent a process of indoctrination at the hands of the so-called Colonel Muaz. In 2011, he also had a falling out with Lazzaro over their “Euro-Sunni project”, a centre of prayer and Islamic lectures for local converts, since Lazzaro had become “too moderate” for Delnevo. On December 2011, after reports that Turkey would host training centres for the anti-Assad Free Syrian Army, Delnevo tried to depart for Istanbul, planning on then joining the militia in Antioch. This plan was foiled by the Italian police, who informed the Turkish authorities that proceeded to stop Delnevo and repatriate him.

In 2012, Delnevo started posting videos on a new YouTube channel called LiguristanTV (an Islamization of the name of his native Italian region). The contents vary from Islamic readings, political commentaries on the wars in Afghanistan and Somalia, and condemnations of those that “insulted” Islam in some capacity. Analysis of his online activity highlighted the hybrid nature of his Islamic identity, as while he subscribed to the integralist Deobandi current of Islam, he also praised or demonstrated attachment to Western and Italian pop-culture elements, some of which clearly contrasted with his religion. In one video, he asked the then-Prime-Minister to withdraw Italian troops from Afghanistan so as to restore Italy’s “ancient splendour”.
On May 2012, Delnevo went to Tangier to marry a Moroccan girl called Fathia, whom he had met online; an instrumental marriage with the purpose of attending the local sharia school named Darul Uloom Deoband Marocco Maulana Ibrahim Khan. When he returned to Italy, he stayed with his mother, and reportedly rarely left his room.
Nonetheless, from the summer of 2012, Delnevo’s radical tendencies seemed to have abated, he cut his beard and stopped wearing the tunic. As it later emerged, this was likely the practice of Taqiyya, the dissimulation of the belonging to a particular religion, possibly to avoid repatriation from his planned second trip to Turkey. In 2012, in fact, he went to Imperia to meet with an Egyptian Salafi Imam, Mohamed Salah Mohamed. Unable to find him, he managed to talk to one of his Italian students, Marco Valentino; during this period, Delnevo also reconnected with his old friend Amine.
It is very possible that these meetings were made in preparation for his departure, as it was considered highly unlikely that the 23-year-old would have been able to cross the Syrian border without help.

In December 2012, through a lie to his parents, he went to Turkey and then crossed the border to Syria, likely through the “Gate of the Winds” crossing of Bab al-Hawa. Delnevo then went on to join the Migrants Brigade, a formation composed of jihadists and terrorists coming from Chechnya, Daghestan, South Ossetia, and Circassia, which was affiliated with Jabhat al-Nusra and commanded at the time by Abu Omar al-Shishani. Once there, he adopted the battle name “Abu Musa”.

While in Syria, he maintained communication with his family, especially with his father and grandmother, sometimes doing Skype calls with the former. While sometimes they tried to convince him to come back to Italy, Delnevo never seemed to take that option into consideration. His father would stay informed also through videos uploaded on a website called Kavkaz center, a small enterprise with the ambition of becoming an Islamic and international Chechen press agency. In intercepted communications, while Delnevo might have appeared restless in his search for martyrdom and in that of killing Assad’s loyalists, he always seemed happy to be there and was ecstatic to share his experiences with his brothers-in-arms. In a conversation with his father, he also demonstrated confusion regarding who he was fighting for, at one point stating that they represented IS in Syria, while Jabhat al-Nusra had, in fact, denied their fusion with Islamic State. For most of his time there, Delnevo was engaged on the front of Aleppo. In June 2013, Assad’s regime, with the support of Hezbollah, mounted an organized offensive on the city. Giuliano Delnevo was reportedly killed by a sniper on the 13th of that month. On the same day, one of his comrades, Hassan Zamza, called his father to confirm his death.

While some of his friends back in Italy stress that Delnevo was not a terrorist and just wanted to fight against Assad’s regime, from the diary that his mother retrieved from Syria, his radicalisation is evident. He expressed nostalgia for Tangier and for his hometown of Genoa, along with the desire to marry in Syria and have children. But together with these pages, many others highlighted his profound hate for his enemies, the pleasure of killing them, and his deep-rooted desire for a death that could appease God.