May 10 (UPI) -- Italian police said they broke up two jihadist cells in Lombardy and Sardinia on Thursday morning, arresting 14 people accused of helping fund extremism in Syria.
The operation involved searches of 20 locations in Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna and Sardinia. Investigators believe the two cells were separate, although one individual is thought to have had relations with both.
An investigation linked 10 Syrians in Lombardy to money laundering and misuse of payment services in Italy, Sweden, Hungary, Turkey and other nations.
The other four arrested are described as militants in Sardinia suspected of being part of a support cell for al-Nusra, a terror organization the U.S. considers to be an associate of al-Qaida. Al-Nusra was the official affiliate of al-Qaeda in Syria, but later said it broke off formal ties with al-Qaeda and merged with other jihadist groups.
Islamic groups across Europe raised money for terror operations and moved the funds in an informal transfer system known as hawala -- essentially a "secure channel for money laundering" that did not involve traditional banks, officials said.
Some money transfers totaled greater than $2.3 million.