Man held in UK after six-year terror manhunt

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Surgul Ahmadzai, 34, was arrested on a European arrest warrant for “belonging to a proscribed terrorist group” at an undisclosed location last week, and brought before Westminster Magistrates Court to face extradition to Italy. The Afghan migrant, also believed to be linked to people smugglers, was earlier arrested with three other suspects when Italian police smashed an alleged five-strong Islamic State terror cell in December 2015 in the southern city of Bari.

He left Italy with another suspect two days later and had been missing ever since.

Ahmadzai appeared before magistrates last Tuesday. He was refused bail, due to his risk of absconding and the nature and seriousness of the alleged offence, and remanded into custody ahead of a second bail application later this month.

The case raises questions about how he was able to enter the UK while the subject of an international manhunt.

Four of the group, who had all been given refugee status, were arrested after allegedly being caught filming inside a shopping ­centre in Bari, an Italian police press conference heard in May 2016. Photos of other suspected targets, including London hotels, restaurants, a footbridge in Canary Wharf and the Emirates Air Line cable car over the Thames, were allegedly found on their phones. One of the hotels was a Premier Inn at the Westfield shopping centre in Stratford, east London.

It was suspected that the group planned to exploit migrant routes into the UK through Calais. Police also discovered a list of people-smuggling costs, and details about trafficking in Italy and Calais.

They were also allegedly planning attacks in France, Italy and Belgium, including Rome’s Colosseum, police said. Pictures of mutilated US soldiers were also allegedly discovered on the phones.

One of the suspects was allegedly posing with an MS16 rifle in an image on one of the phones seized by police.

The refugees had been given travel documents in Italy that allowed them to move between countries in the Schengen zone, but not to the UK, and had flown between seven European cities in nine days.

A Home Office spokesman said: “We do not comment on individual cases.”

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