Born: October 1992;
Place of Birth: Marrakech, Morocco;
Nationality: Morrocan, Italian;
Anas El Abboubi was an Italian citizen of Moroccan descent and a U.S.-designated foreign fighter for ISIS since September 2016. According to the U.S. Department of State, El Abboubi had been fighting for ISIS from September 2013 until the time of his presumed death. He was previously arrested by Italian counterterrorism police in June 2013 for jihadist propaganda – including his blog titled “Sharia4Italy” – and incitement to racial hatred.
In or around 2012, El Abboubi was featured on an MTV Italy special entitled “In the Rhythm of Allah,” in which he showcased his hip-hop and rapping skills. He called himself “Mc Khalifh” and expressed his preference for “angry” music. He had interview, in which he discussed his love for Brescia – a city in northern Italy – and spoke with a notably Brescian accent. During this interview, El Abboubi described the racism and exclusion which he was subjected to throughout his life in Italy.
El Abboubi said that he had “clear ideas” about his religious faith, and that “tolerance is the principal point in order to prove that you are a good Muslim.” He claimed to have converted to Islam a year and a half prior to the interview and said the transition had a positive influence on his life. By the summer of 2012, El Abboubi stopped his rap career describing music as haram (forbidden).
While in Italy, El Abboubi allegedly plotted to carry out acts of domestic terrorism. Police in the Italian city of Brescia stated that El Abboubi had utilized Google Maps to search for potential targets. One of his targets included the barracks in the Italian city of Goito, which houses members of the Italian military. Another target allegedly included the crowded Brescia train station through which thousands of commuters pass each day.
El Abboubi first became known to police in September 2012, when he requested a permit from the police headquarters in Brescia to organize a protest. He told officials he wanted to protest the controversial movie The Innocence of Muslims, an anti-Islamic film that sparked protests within Muslims communities internationally.
He additionally informed police he planned to burn an Israeli flag and display anti-American banners. The Brescia police began looking into El Abboubi’s background, beginning what became known as “Operation Screen Shot.” The Brescia police monitored El Abboubi’s online activity and noted a fast progression towards increasingly radical content. El Abboubi began posting texts from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula radical cleric and propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki and looking at operational manuals on how to make explosives.
El Abboubi began contacting jihadist sympathizers through Twitter and Facebook in 2012. He connected to Millatu Ibrahim a German-based militant Salafist group, participated in lectures by Omar Bakri Mohammad, a Lebanon-based extreme cleric, and with Anjem Choudary, an internationally designated Islamist cleric, convicted ISIS supporter, and founder of Sharia4UK. El Abboubi began Sharia4Italy through a blog where he posted his writings advocating Islamic order.
It is unclear whether Sharia4Italy ever evolved beyond El Abboubi’s blog into an active organization similar to Sharia4Belgium, or whether the movement consisted primarily of the use of the hashtag #sharia4Italy. Sharia4Belgium was led by Fouad Belkacem after spending time in a London mosque and developing a relationship with Choudary, who helped Belkacem model Sharia4Belgium after the successful Sharia4UK.
Although El Abboubi had contact with Choudary it is not believed that he had the same infrastructural support when attempting to set up Shaira4Italy. Postings under the hashtag #sharia4Italy have included photos supportive of ISIS as well as maps of Italy, appearing to indicate that the propagandists hope the country will one day fall under sharia law.
El Abboubi was arrested in Brescia on the morning of June 12, 2013, on charges of recruitment with the intent to commit acts of international terrorism and inciting discrimination and violence on the basis of race, ethnicity, and religion. He was briefly imprisoned.
Following his release, the prosecutor filed an appeal asking that he be re-incarcerated. The appeal was rejected. In October 2013, El Abboubi allegedly traveled to Syria where he reportedly joined in the fighting. El Abboubi’s father confirmed that he had left for Syria.
One month later in November 2013, photos appeared on Facebook under a new profile name Anas Al-Italy, depicting El Abboubi holding a Kalashnikov, as well as an audio recording of El Abboubi explaining his decision to embrace Islamic law and fight alongside Syrian rebels.
On January 23, 2019, El Abboubi was sentenced by the Court of Assizes of Brescia to six years in jail in absentia. Although he is formally an international fugitive, his family believes he was killed while fighting in former ISIS -controlled territory in Iraq/Syria.
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