Italian authorities have expelled a radicalised former imam on security grounds, the interior ministry said in a statement Tuesday. The 36-year-old Moroccan citizen was deported aboard a direct flight to Casablanca from Milan's Malpensa airport, the statement said.
The Moroccan, who held a regular Italian residence permit, was in 2017 appointed imam of Vercelli in northwest Italy, where he preached firebrand sermons and fiercely criticised Muslims who kept company with Italians, sometimes coming to blows with them, according to the statement.
The man came to the attention of Italian security services in 2012 after his radicalisation became apparent when he suddenly changed his lifestyle, adopted a rigourous interpretation of the Koran and started behaving aggressively towards other Muslims at Novara's cultural centre, where he was imam for a few months, the statement noted.
The former imam's expulsion brings to 21 the number of people deported from Italy this year on national security grounds, according to the statement. A total 384 suspected extremists have been expelled since 2015, the statement added.
The number of expulsions has continued to climb with 126 last year, 105 in 2017, and 66 per year in 2016 and in 2015, said the statement.