Nadia Benedetti, Claudio Cappelli, Vincenzo D’Allestro, Claudia D’Antona, Simona Monti, Adele Puglisi, Maria Riboli, Cristian Rossi and Marco Tondat. They were nine Italian citizens, nine victims of terrorism that Italy will not forget. Last Friday, at 9:10 p.m. our Embassy was informed of the attack under way at the Holey Artisan Bakery. The call was made by Gian Galeazze Boschetti, the husband of Claudia D’Antona.
Boschetti called to say that, having momentarily left the table to go to the garden, he had seen four armed men storm into the restaurant from his position. Half an hour later, around 9:45 p.m., another Italian, Jacopo Bioni, the kitchen chef, called the Embassy. He had climbed on the roof through the back stairs and then climbed down into the garden, from where he left the grounds and found shelter in a private home.
In the meantime, there had been a failed police raid in which two officers were killed and another twenty-or-so agents were injured in the launch of grenades. Later, from his hideout in the garden, Mr Boschetti informed that he could see two or three members of the terrorist commando control the area from the second-floor terrace and from the ground floor, where most of the hostages were kept, and could hear machine guns fire intermittent rounds of shots.
On the following morning of Saturday, 2 July, at 7:42 a.m. the army launched an operation deploying 15 tanks, two of which ran through the restaurant’s outside fence and entrance gate. The breaking through operation lasted about ten minutes while the whole action, which also naturally entailed clearing the setting of the terrorist attack and hostage-taking with explosive devices, lasted roughly 45 minutes. The victims (9 Italians, 7 Japanese and the others) were identified in the military morgue that same 2 July, at 6 p.m. local time. The identification immediately confirmed that the death of some of the victims had been produced by gunshots while others were killed by machete blows on their necks, head and face. It had been a long night of horror and agony during which the Embassy kept in continuous contact with the Crisis Management Unit and the latter with the families of the victims, who continued to be hopeful despite the presence of their family members in the restaurant had been confirmed.
The perpetrators of this heinous massacre were all educated youths from middle-class families and some even from the Bengladeshi establishment, thus proving wrong – and it’s not the first time – easy sociological interpretations of the ongoing terrorist phenomenon facing us. According to local authorities the perpetrators are allegedly members of the Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Islamic group. On the basis of early evaluations made with diplomats and intelligence agents of other Countries, we are led to consider reliable the responsibility for the attack claimed by Daesh on some of the websites of the self-proclaimed Caliphate.
This tragedy brings into focus some of the issues to be discussed. First of all, the nature of the threat, the fact that we are facing a global menace spanning from West Africa all the way to South-East Asia, from the Gulf of Guinea to the Bay of Bengal, and which takes on different forms – Daesh, Al-Qaeda, in addition to several local jihadist groups – although their common denominator lies in the degeneration of Islamic fundamental terrorism, which also shares the symbolic appeal of Daesh.
In these difficult days, many have asked themselves if the threat is directly addressed to us Italians; of course, in this case, the victims were prevalently although not exclusively Italian and Japanese. In other cases, the targets were by and large identified as “infidels”: Westerners, foreigners, those who insane and murderous terrorists define as “infidels”. Often however the targets – let’s be clear on this – are chosen at random; they are shooting in the crowd. The deadliest attack of all was the one performed three days ago in Baghdad, where over 200 people were killed. They are indiscriminately shooting in the crowd also in mostly Muslim Countries.
Therefore, of course we are their targets: as Italians, as Westerners and as the defenders of the values of our societies. Although it is equally obvious that terrorism often strikes indiscriminately and also targets Muslim-majority Countries.
I think is also an opportunity to evaluate the characteristics of Italy’s response, which I believe should mainly be a response of Government unity, of the Parliament, of the Institutions involved, of the social forces and of the world of culture. When nine Italians are killed, Italy responds united. And I think that this message must be very clear. The response, in addition to being united, must also be determined. We must resolutely say, albeit avoiding all forms of verbal abuse, that we will unrelentingly pursue Daesh and fundamental terrorism, and even more so after this massacre. The Dhaka attack tells us that responding to a terrorist threat is necessary and must be done with determination.
People say that with these attacks Daesh is reacting to the defeats on the ground with acts of terrorism. I’m saying something very simple, namely that only by mobilising the international community to impose upon Daesh a final defeat on the ground will it be possible to offset the symbolic appeal that is now the main driving force behind these attacks. We must be convinced of this because if we were to internalize our uncertainties and fears of following through with fighting Daesh to the end, imagining that any small reluctance in carrying through with it could save lives here and there around the world or even within our national borders, we would be making a big mistake because the very existence of Daesh and its symbolic appeal is what drives these heinous acts.
We don’t know if this group of five that attacked the Dhaka restaurant belonged to organised terrorist cells, local groups or were lone wolfs. However, they all often commit criminal acts in the name of the appeal that this self-proclaimed Islamic State has on them. Therefore, to tear down this symbol is one of the priority aims of the Government, Parliament and of all of Italy.
Of course a military defeat is not sufficient and, as you know, Italy has been repeating this for months to our allies in the international coalition. It is not sufficient because we know that combating radicalized fundamentalism will require a long-term commitment. Defeating Daesh will be a decisive but not definitive step and this is why I believe we must offer solidarity to, and ask the commitment of, Muslim-majority Countries and the Islamic community in Italy.
We must offer them solidarity because they are often the target of terrorism and we saw this in Baghdad, just to mention the latest massacre. But we must also ask for their commitment because, as King Abdullah of Jordan, a leader of the Arab world, often repeats: “It is up to us, us Arabs, us believers in the faith of Islam, to defeat these infidels”. That is precisely how King Abdullah defines them.
And it is in this spirit of solidarity and calling for your commitment that I address the large, vast Muslim community that lives in peace, asking you to openly commit, together with us, also in Italy, to fight these terrorists who abuse your religion, disfiguring it.