May 20, 2015 / 10:26 AM / 4 years ago

Italy arrests Moroccan over Tunisian museum killings

MILAN (Reuters) - Italian police said on Wednesday they had arrested a 22-year-old Moroccan man suspected of involvement in the March 18 Islamist militant attack on the Bardo museum in Tunis that killed 20 tourists.

Police in Milan said the man, named as Touil Abdelmajid, had reached Italy on a migrant boat in February. The revelation could fuel concerns that militants hide among the thousands of refugees who cross the Mediterranean from North Africa.

Tunisia has said it has arrested the great majority of those responsible for the attack launched by a cell of 23 militants with overlapping allegiances to a number of hardline Islamist groups.

Tunisian authorities believe Abdelmajid had a role in both planning and carrying out the museum attack, according to Bruno Megale, an official in Italy’s special operations police unit.

He told a news conference that the suspect, who was living with his mother and two brothers in Gaggiano outside Milan, had been sought by authorities in several countries.

In Italy, the point of arrival for more than 30,000 of the 51,000 boat migrants who have reached Europe this year, the fact Abdelmajid came on a boat was seized upon by opponents of the government’s policy of helping migrants who near Italian shores.

Matteo Salvini, leader of the anti-immigrant Northern League party which polls suggest has the support of some 15 percent of the population, tweeted that migrant boat departures and arrivals should be stopped immediately.

“The terrorist arrested today in Milan arrived in Italy at the beginning of the year on a boat from Tunisia. The League has been complaining about this risk for ages!” Salvini said.

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned earlier this week that Islamist militants might be trying to “blend in among the migrants” as they try to reach Europe.

It was not immediately clear whether Abdelmajid would be sent to Tunisia for questioning.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi congratulated the police over the arrest, saying he was “proud of your professionalism.”

Additional reporting by Isla Binnie |Writing by Gavin Jones; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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