Milan: Aftab Farook, a Pakistani expelled on suspicion of supporting the Islamic State group and plotting attacks in Italy, played cricket for its national youth side, an official said.
“I struggle to believe what I read in the newspapers about Farook,” said the president of Italy’s cricket federation, Simone Gambino.
“He was a gentle, sensitive and cultured young man who played for our national under-19s team from 2005-2009,” he said. “He was a very normal guy.”
Gambino and Farook were Facebook friends and had last been touch as recently as just over a month ago, Gambino said.
Italian authorities had made too much of 26-year-old Farook’s full beard and his “attitude” Gambino stated.
“We are very worried about him because he has been sent back to Pakistan, where he no longer has anyone. His parents and entire family live in Vaprio d’Adda,” Gambino said, referring to a town near Milan.
Farook was arrested at his parents’ home in Vaprio d’Adda and deported on Monday after police caught him talking about using a gun or bomb to target wine shops in Milan and Bergamo in wiretaps and “obsessively” viewing IS propaganda online.
He was also allegedly planning a terrorist attack on the northern city of Bergamo’s international airport, Orio al Serio, investigators have said.
Farook was an IS supporter and planned to go to Syria to fight for the group, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said after his expulsion from Italy.
Farook worked for a local branch of the sports goods retailer Decathlon and also volunteered as a driver of a bus for disabled people in his spare time.
He arrived in Italy in 2003 aged 13 and made several unsuccessful applications for citizenship, the most recent of which was in March.