Described by the U.S. Treasury Department as the main Al Qaeda station house in Europe and responsible for the movement of weapons, men, and money around the world.
At the The United Nation's International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the defence team for Bosnian Army Commander Rasim Delic alleged that the countries foreign El Mujahid brigade reported to Milan.
Delic's defense team insisted that there was a parallel chain of command for the El Mujahid, who reported to Sheik Anwar Shaban, headquartered in the Islamic Center in Milan.
"Combat reports were sent to the Islamic Cultural Center in Milan. Sheik Anwar Shaaban, who founded and ran the Center, was the real authority in the El Mujahid Detachment. The detachment also sent reports to the terrorist organization al-Qaida," the defense counsel said.
According to a CIA report, Shaaban was a senior leader of the Egyptian terrorist group Al-Gama'at al-Islamiyya and had been in regular contact with Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, al-Qaida second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri and other high-ranking Islamic militants. The report said that Shaaban was a veteran who fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan and had obtained political asylum in Italy in 1991.
The CIA report also alleges that Shaaban ran a training camp some 50 kilometers outside of Milan where fighters heading to Bosnia could practice using weapons and explosives, and that the Islamic Cultural Institute was al-Qaida's main logistical base in Europe. The first group of fighters sent by Shaaban through Milan to central Bosnia arrived in the summer of 1992, a couple of months after the war started.
Following the arrest of extremists based around Milan, Italy, in April 2001, local authorities begin to investigate associates of the arrested men. They find that when the group wants to send people to training camps in Afghanistan, this is arranged through two people based at the Islamic Cultural Institute, a well-known radical mosque in Milan.
The two men who take care of the arrangements are Abdelhalim Remadna, an Algerian secretary of the mosque’s imam, and a Moroccan named Yassin Chekkouri, both of whom live inside the mosque and almost never leave. After several months of investigation, the authorities find them to be key players in a sophisticated network that is recruiting hundreds of European Muslims for al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan.
Italian intelligence successfully wiretaps an al-Qaeda cell in Milan, Italy, starting in late 1999.
Abdulsalam Ali Abdulrahman, a section chief in Yemen’s Political Security Organization (roughly the equivalent to the FBI) talks about a massive strike against the enemies of Islam involving aircraft and the sky. The conversation takes place in a car on the way to a terrorist summit near Bologna and the person Abdulrahman talks to is Mahmoud Es Sayed, a close associate of al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri.
“Our focus is only on the air,” he tells Es Sayed.
Es Sayed remarks, “I know brothers who went to America with the trick of the wedding publications.”
Beginning in October 2000, FBI experts will help Italian police analyze the intercepts and warnings. Related conversations are overheard early the next year.
A 1995 Italian intelligence report alleges the Switzerland-based Al Taqwa Bank is funding radical groups in Algeria, Tunisia, and Sudan, and is a major backer of Hamas, but Swiss authorities are slow to investigate. The Italians are interested in Al Taqwa because of its connection to a radical Italian mosque, the Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, which Al Taqwa founder and director Ahmed Idris Nasreddin helped create and finance in the early 1990s.
Italians tell a Swiss prosecutor that Al Taqwa “comprises the most important financial structure of the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic terrorist organizations.”
Additionally, two other top officials in the mosque are Al Taqwa shareholders.