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20 arrests in European terror cell - 2 suspects in UK for suicide bomber recruitment

November 6, 2007

Significant European Muslim Jihadist Network Broken Up

November 6, 2007 - San Francisco, CA - - At least 20 Islamic terror suspects were apprehended today in wide-ranging law enforcement operations throughout Europe, designed to as Italy's Interior Minister, Giuliano Amato stated, decapitate, "a jihadist network that operates across Europe."

Amato said that most of the suspects are Tunisian and that they had set up "Salafist jihadi" cells, which were preparing suicide bombers to, "send to the Iraqi and Afghan theatres."

The operations centered in the Italian cities of Milan, Bergamo, Varese and Reggio Emilia and in the British cities of Croydon and Manchester. Arrests were also made in undisclosed locations in both France and Portugal.

The counter terror roll-up was coordinated by Italian prosecutors in Milan, who developed the evidence necessary for the raids to go forward.

The leaders of the terror cells have since been identified as Mehidi Ben Nasr, Dridi Sabri and Imed Ben Zarkaoui, according to information provided by the ANSA news agency.

Police seized evidentiary materials during the busts including poisons, long range detonators, possibly to be employed as triggers for IEDs along with literature describing guerilla warfare tactics and weapons.

Most of the Italians arrested were illegal aliens and will be additionally prosecuted on charges stemming from their status.


Italy Breaks Up European Terror Cell

By COLLEEN BARRY 1 hour ago

MILAN, Italy (AP) A Europe-wide sweep disrupted an Islamic cell that was recruiting potential suicide bombers for attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, Italian police said Tuesday, announcing the arrests of 20 terror suspects.

Police said the suspects, mostly Tunisians, were arrested across Europe as part of the sweep against a cell based in the northern Italian region of Lombardy.

Executing the arrest warrants, police said they found al-Qaida manuals for making explosives, detonation devices and poisons, and instructions on guerrilla techniques.

"Once more, the central role of Milan and Lombardy in the panorama of Islamic militants has been confirmed," the Italian military police said in a statement.

The group's members had been indoctrinated in militancy in mosques since at least 1998, according to police transcripts, and appeared to take serious precautions.

In one intercepted call, a suspected cell member said that "things are being done with extreme calm, haste does not bring the desired results."

Eleven were arrested in the northern Italian cities of Milan, Reggio Emilia, Imperia and Bergamo. Nine others were arrested on warrants issued in France, Britain and Portugal, Italian news agencies reported.

Giuliano Amato, Italy's interior minister, said the suspects are mostly Tunisian. He praised the sting as an example of strong cooperation among European countries.

Portuguese police confirmed the arrest of one person there.

The suspects were wanted on charges ranging from association with the aim of committing international terrorism to falsifying documents to aid illegal immigrants.

Associated Press writer Barry Hatton contributed from Lisbon, Portugal.


Two held in terror cell raid

Press Association
Tuesday November 6, 2007 3:03 PM

Two suspected members of a European terror cell that recruited suicide bombers and insurgent fighters have been arrested.

Officers from Scotland Yard's extradition unit supported by counter-terrorist officers swooped on homes in London and Manchester.

In a series of co-ordinated raids, 18 other suspected members of the Islamic extremist cell were arrested in Italy, France and Portugal. Italian police said the cell, based in northern Italy, recruited insurgents to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Scotland Yard said the two men are accused of forging documents to help volunteers enter Italy illegally and now face extradition.

Ali Chehidi, 34, and Mohamed Khemiri, 53, are due to appear at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court.

Phone calls intercepted by the Italian security services suggested that the plot could date back to 1998.

Eleven suspects were arrested in the northern Italian cities of Milan, Reggio Emilia, Imperia and Bergamo.

Italian Interior Minister Giuliano Amato said most of the arrested people were from Tunisia.

In operations that also involved local officers, Chehidi was arrested at Burcott Road, Purley, while Khemiri was arrested at Dinnington Drive, Manchester.

A spokeswoman said: "Greater Manchester Police's Counter Terrorism Unit have ... assisted the Metropolitan Police to arrest a man in Manchester. The Metropolitan Police Extradition Unit arrested the man ... on an international arrest warrant.",,-7054328,00.html


MIM: Information about a previous foiled terror plot in 2002 and an analysis of why Al Qaeda has chosen Italy as a preferred base of operation.

Analysis: Italy's Terror Connection

By Frances Kennedy in Rome
Nearly a week after the arrest of a group of Moroccans suspected of preparing a terrorist attack on the US embassy in Rome there are many unanswered questions troubling the investigators and the Italian public.

The biggest of them all is - why Italy?

Rome magistrates on Sunday confirmed the arrests of eight Moroccan men on charges of subversive association.

Leaked reports said investigators believed they "were part of a terrorist organisation that intended to use poisonous substances for acts of indiscriminate fanaticism".

Map showing Rome
Four of the Moroccans were found in possession of a cyanide compound, gunpowder and detailed maps of the water system around the US Embassy on Rome's famous Via Veneto.

Italian police met embassy officials on Monday to consider security measures after the discovery of a recently created hole in a utility tunnel a few metres from the embassy's foundations.

Italy's loose immigration laws and strategic location make it a tempting location for terrorist groups wanting a European base, yet it has never been considered a priority target for Islamic extremists.

It has always had a balanced stance on touchy issues such as the Arab-Israeli conflict and has played only a marginal role in the US-led "war against terrorism".

However, the US State Department last year warned that Italy was becoming a key European base for al-Qaeda activists and listed Milan's Islamic Cultural Centre as a suspected cove of terrorists, a claim rejected by the centre's leaders.

Cell convictions

These accusations seemed to be reinforced by the the convictions last week in Milan of four Tunisians, in the first post-11 September trial of men accused of belonging to an Italian al-Qaeda cell.

The four were arrested last year and phone taps show they were in close contact with other al-Qaeda operatives in Europe and in Afghanistan.

Italian police officers at the Trevi Fountain Police have made eight arrests over the alleged poison plot
General Luigi Caligaris, an Italian defence expert, said recent events seem to contradict traditional thinking that terrorists prefer to keep a low profile in countries they want to use as a logistical base.

"However, if we are in a transition, from a period in which it was easier to get away with things to a new tougher climate, fanatics might want to take advantage of that for some high profile action," he commented.

The current government, keen to foster a "special relationship" with Washington, is trying to show it is doing all in its power to halt Islamic extremists while reassuring Italians that they are not under threat.

Prison 'converts'

Investigators were furious that news of the arrests was leaked to the media. Sources say this was because they consider the Moroccans arrested minor players and wanted to use them to trace the organisers of a potential attack.

According to reports in the Italian press, the secret services have in recent months been focusing on the many North Africans in Italian jails.

They said there was clear evidence that al-Qaeda was looking for low-level operatives among the often desperate prison population.

See also:

24 Feb 02 | Europe
'Terror tunnels' found in Rome 22 Feb 02 | Europe
Italy jails four terror suspects 21 Feb 02 | Europe
'Cyanide plotters' face terror charges 20 Feb 02 | Europe
'Cyanide attack' foiled in Italy 02 Oct 01 | Europe
US warns of Italy terror attack 23 Aug 98 | UK
UK says 'embassies bomber' wants chemical weapons 11 Dec 01 | Europe
Looking for European al-Qaeda Internet links:

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