U.S. officials who argue that Syria is a haven for Islamist terrorism have a new piece of evidence on their side. Beginning last January and continuing through the first week of the war, Mullah Abderrazzak a Tunisian member of the Ansar al-Islam terrorist group made satellite telephone calls from Syria to Milan-based Islamic terrorists, according to court papers filed in Milan.
Abderrazzak wanted the terrorists to leave Europe and join the jihad against U.S. and British troops in Iraq, an Italian antiterror investigator tells TIME, and coordinated the movements of an alleged Milan-based terrorist cell. "He's directing everything from Syria," the investigator says. Abderrazzak's location doesn't prove the Syrian government is knowingly harboring him, but the investigator argues that "activity like this can't happen without [Syria's] security service knowing."
Five members of the Milan cell Abderrazzak allegedly ran have been arrested in the past two weeks, charged with recruiting for Ansar, which is based in northern Iraq and has suspected ties to al-Qaeda. The fifth arrest was announced last week after police captured Mohamed Daki, a 38-year-old Moroccan, in the northern town of Reggio Emilia, and charged him with being part of a terror operation. Daki, who had been based in Hamburg until January, is also said to have lived for a year with Ramzi Binalshibh, the al-Qaeda ringleader nabbed last year in Pakistan. Investigators say Daki also had encounters with Mohamed Atta, the Egyptian who led the Sept. 11 attacks.