Tunisian terrorism suspect held, people trafficking gang smashed

Police arrested a suspected Tunisian jihadist in southern Italy on Friday in an operation that smashed an alleged people-trafficking gang he led.

The Tunisian and seven other alleged accomplices, all foreigners, were held in the southern provinces of Naples and Caserta, and were charged with abetting illegal migration and forging documents, police said in a statement.

Interior minister Angelino Alfano hailed Friday's operation as "another successful day for the Italian state".

"Another hard blow has been delivered to organised crime," Alfano said.

Anti-terrorism prosecutors in Naples had already been probing the Tunisian for international terrorism and investigations showed he had become "self-radicalised" Alfano stated

The Tunisian's "self-radicalisation"occurred gradually and he used social media to praise the deadly 13 November terror attacks in Paris claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group, according to police.

The gang the Tunisian allegedly set up and ran issued migrants with bogus work contracts and pay slips from conniving textiles businesses in Italy, enabling the migrants to get legal residency status, police said.

Italian authorities are investigating IS's possible role in organising the smuggling across the Mediterranean of tens of thousands of migrants, justice minister Andrea Orlando told parliament on Wednesday.

Details of the investigation were secret, he said, adding that there were also suspicions the militants were trying to influence where in Italy migrants were sent to.