Sheffield man in court today after international investigation into Islamist terror network

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A Sheffield man is due in court today after being arrested in the city in an anti-terror raid.

The 52-year-old, who is not a British national, was one of 13 arrested across Europe yesterday in raids led by Italian authorities.

Three were arrested in Hull, Derby, Birmingham, with the others in Italy and Norway.

The UK suspects were detained by officers from the North East and West Midlands counter terrorism units on European Arrest Warrants and are due in court today for the start of extradition proceedings.

They were arrested by investigators probing a group called Rawti Shax, which is described as a ‘terrorist organisation of Kurdish-Sunni origin’.

The four men arrested in the UK on Thursday will appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court today.

Eurojust, the EU agency which co-ordinated the raids, said suspected leaders and several members of the group were arrested during simultaneous activity in six countries.

It added: “The arrested persons are charged with international terrorism.”

In addition to the arrests, authorities in Italy, Germany, Finland, Norway, Switzerland and the UK searched a total of 26 properties and seized several items including electronic devices and documents.

Some suspects could not be located as they are believed to have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join jihadist organisations such as Islamic State (IS) - also known as Isis - and al-Nusra.

Rawti Shax or Didi Nwe - meaning the ‘new course’ or ‘towards the mountain’ - is said to represent an ‘evolution’ of Ansar Al Islam, which is listed by the UN as a terrorist organisation affiliated with al Qaida.

Eurojust said: “Its primary objective is to violently overthrow the current Iraqi Kurdish government and replace it with a caliphate governed by Sharia law.

“According to the Italian investigation, unlike Ansar Al Islam, Rawti Shax arose and is rooted in Europe, with cells communicating and operating via the internet, with a structure active especially in Germany, Switzerland, the UK, Finland, Italy, Greece, Sweden, Norway, Iraq, Iran and Syria.

“As the group evolved, it became active in providing logistical and financial support to recruiting foreign terrorist fighters to be sent to Syria and Iraq, also with the intent of training them for the future conflict in Kurdistan.”

Najmuddin Faraj Ahmad, known as Mullah Krekar, was said to be the group’s ideological leader.

Ahmad was sentenced to 18 months in Norway last month for praising the killing of cartoonists at the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in January.

Ahmad’s lawyer told reporters in Norway that suspicions against him ‘have largely been based on false accusations’.

Ansar Al Islam has been listed as a proscribed terrorist organisation in the UK since October 2005.

The operation, which follows several years of work by investigators, was launched under the direction of the Public Prosecution Office in Rome.

The four men arrested in the UK, who are not believed to be British nationals.

A spokeswoman for the North East CTU said: “The arrests have taken place in connection with this operation under European Arrest Warrants.”

The spokeswoman said the activity ‘is as a result of an ongoing investigation which is intelligence-led. There is no evidence to suggest that communities are at risk’.