ROME, May 10 (Xinhua) -- Italian police on Wednesday targeted several Somali citizens suspected of migrant trafficking and illegal money transfer, authorities said.
Fifteen arrest warrants were issued against Somali nationals in the southern cities of Bari, Catania and Salerno, and 11 of the suspects were brought to jail, police said in a statement.
The alleged criminal ring was based in Bari, the capital of the Puglia region, and led by a Somali man of 33 who owned two internet shops in the city.
All of those arrested were charged with criminal association, favoring illegal immigration, falsification of documents, bribery and corruption of a public official.
Investigators said they also believed some of those arrested would have used Facebook and other social media to stay in contact with members of Somalia-based Al-Shabaab, which is considered an Islamist terror group linked to Al-Qaida.
Furthermore, the leader of the criminal ring would have been in phone contact with another Somali citizen, who was arrested here in July 2016 for allegedly helping two militants of so-called Islamic State (IS) group enter Italy through Malta.
Raids were carried out early on Wednesday in all of the three cities involved in the operation.
"The group organized the illegal transfer of migrants from Sicily, where most of them landed, to the city of Bari," chief prosecutor Giuseppe Volpe told reporters at a press conference.
"There, they provided illegal migrants with false documents and all the means necessary to reach other European countries within the Schengen area, and especially Germany," he added.
The human trafficking ring would have been financed through a money transfer network and with the "hawala" transfer scheme, which is the same system used to finance international terrorism, according to the chief prosecutor.
A 62-year-old public official in the municipality of Bari was among those put under investigation, for allegedly accepting bribes to provide false resident permits to the migrants exploited by the ring.