A 40-year-old Iraqi man who is suspected of being a member of the Islamist terrorist group ISIS was arrested in Athens, Greece on Thursday.
The man was originally arrested on December 7 for a series of crimes, including creating false travel documents, facilitating the entry to and exit from the country, and possession of firearms. At the time, he was let free under strict supervision. He was then re-arrested by anti-terrorist forces on Thursday.
The suspected ISIS member is accused of heading an illegal forgery ring for travel and identification documents. It seems that investigators determined that the man, who has lived in Greece for years, may have been running a kind of “travel agency” for ISIS members looking to enter Greece and Europe.
Authorities uncover forgery ring, potential ties to ISIS
Authorities found over 900 suspicious passports, identification cards, and other travel documents in the possession of the two men who were arrested on suspicion of running the ring. Police have valued the fake documents at over 400,000 euros ($452,598).
The other man arrested for involvement in the forgeries was a 36-year-old from Egypt. The Greek authorities stated that they are searching for two more people, both of whom are from Africa, in connection with the case.
Police believe that the criminal enterprise was organized through the messaging app Viber. The criminals searched the app for users who resembled those looking to purchase the falsified travel documents and used the strangers’ pictures to create the forgeries.
Before his arrest, the Iraqi man was under close supervision by the authorities, who are now searching for all those who purchased and received the fake documents from the man.
The authorities are also investigating any potential ties between the 40-year-old man who was arrested Thursday and a 34-year-old man who was arrested in Athens on suspicion of being a member of the terrorist group in October.
Both men are from Iraq; the 34-year-old lived in Patissia, in close proximity to the building where the forged travel documents were made.
Suspected ISIS member arrested in Greece in October
The other Iraqi national who was arrested in Greece in October was discovered in a video depicting ISIS members.
The video, shown above, which was released in 2014, details the evolution of ISIS and features the suspect, who is flanked by two armed jihadists, raising his gun in a celebratory fashion.
While it was not the piece of evidence that led Greek police to arrest the man, aged 34, it will allegedly be included in evidence used against him at his trial.
Greek authorities reportedly knew of his presence in the country, but information from a foreign intelligence service telling Greek authorities that the Iraqi had been an ISIS operative accelerated developments leading to his arrest.
The detainee was held and interrogated by the anti-terrorist service on Monday while his house was searched by police. They found phones, tablets, and sim cards which will all be analyzed for any evidence relevant to the case.
He has been living in Greece since 2017 with his wife and four children. The man first arrived on the island of Lesvos, which is the first stop in Europe for many refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Asia.
During his stay in the country, he had twice applied for political asylum, but on both occasions his application had been rejected.
He had recently appealed to the administrative courts against the court decisions, citing humanitarian reasons.
Several ISIS members arrested in Greece
Greece has arrested a number of ISIS members in recent years, as extremists have taken advantage of the migrant influx to Greece.
In November 2020, a 27-year-old Syrian man was jailed after he was charged with two crimes linked to ISIS terror attacks.
The suspect had originally confessed to police that he was indeed an ISIS member and pointed himself out in a video recording of ISIS fighters murdering civilians in 2014.
In testimony before the magistrate, however, he recanted and denied all the charges, claiming that the confession had been extracted by the use of torture.
The charges against the 27-year-old, who was residing at the Eleonas refugee and migrant housing facility in Attica, are for participation in a terror organization and direct involvement in murder as an act of terror.
In 2018, a 33-year-old Syrian national had been convicted on murder and explosives charges related to his participation with ISIS.
Earlier in the same year, an Afghan national caught carrying dozens of detonators was detained in Athens by Greek police and charged with the illegal possession of explosives.
In May 2017, a court in Komotini, northern Greece also convicted two members of the Islamic State terror group and sentenced them to 15 years’ imprisonment for unlawful arms possession.
The two men — a 30-year-old Swedish national and a 21-year-old Yemeni — were carrying hunting knives and were trying to cross into Turkey.