London Attack: Mother Ashamed to Mourn Youssef Zaghba

"It's impossible for me to say anything that makes sense," says Valeria Collina Kadhija, the mother of one of the London Bridge attackers, Youssef Zaghba.

Ms Collina sits on the floor of the front room of her house.

The lights are off and the shutters are lowered. In the corridor, there is a shelf of hardback books including works by Hemingway and George Bernard Shaw. 

A certificate on a sitting room wall honours a relative's service in World War Two against Nazi Germany. There are no family photos on display.
Manchester Attack

Valeria Collina is a convert to Islam. She wears a veil, and speaks quietly to a group of journalists sitting around her. "From 2016 there were problems with my son - the fact that he was stopped at Bologna airport [whilst trying to get to Istanbul and then to Syria].

"He would say to me 'Come on Mum let's go live in Syria. Over there, they have a pure Islam.' I told him 'Are you crazy? I have no intention of going to Syria with you or with anyone. I'm fine in my country.'"

After he was stopped at Bologna airport in March 2016, Italian police began to monitor her son, a move that Valeria Collina supported. The Italians shared information with other countries' intelligence agencies, including the UK's.

But Youssef Zaghba, a 22-year-old Italian of Moroccan origin, was still allowed to travel abroad.Image captionYoussef Zaghba (R) was named as the third attacker, after Khuram Butt (L) and Rachid Redouane

"After the whole incident at Bologna airport, I told him 'You have to be perfect now. You can't look at strange things on the internet or meet strange people.' But then when he went back to London…"

Her voice trails off. In London she says that her son found work at an Islamic news channel. But she was worried that he sounded very sombre.

"He looked serious in his pictures. So I joked 'Can you send me a picture where you're smiling more?'" They spoke for the last time two days before he carried out his attack.

"It was a very sweet phone call. We spoke normally."

After she heard of the London Bridge attack, Ms Collina tried to get in touch with her son. But she could not get through.

"We sent a friend of his to look for him at the house [in London]. At that point I thought that my son was afraid that the police would try to connect him to the attack. I thought he was in hiding."

But on Tuesday the police came to her house to inform her that her son was one of the attackers. She thinks now of the families of her son's victims.

"I can understand from my own personal tragedy. But I don't even have the courage to compare my pain to theirs. It's as if I were ashamed to say 'I'm also a mother, I'm also suffering.'"
'It should never happen again'

She supports the decision of imams in the UK not bury her son. "I understand that it is right and dutiful in this moment to give this strong signal. We need this kind of gesture. Because the press accuses Muslims of not taking a stand. But we do."

She distances herself from her son's actions. "It's a horrible thing. It shouldn't have happened and it should never happen again. And I'm going to do everything I can to prevent this. We need more education for young people."

We left her alone, contemplating in the dark. - BBC

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