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Italian Police Arrest Three Algerians

December 24, 2005

ROME (AP) _ Police in southern Italy arrested three Algerians Friday on international terrorism charges and accused them of planning attacks in Iraq and Italy, police and the Interior Ministry said.

The three were arrested in a nationwide sweep against an extremist group in Algeria, for whom they allegedly provided logistical support, the Carabinieri paramilitary police said.

Officials suspect that they are members of the Salafist Group for Call and Combat, or GSPC, an Algerian group that allegedly provides fake documents to al-Qaida and seeks recruits.

But recently the cell had acquired a new role, said Gen. Giampaolo Ganzer, head of the Carabinieri special forces group that made the arrests.

``They were set to move to Iraq for terrorist actions, also suicide ones, and at the same time they studied more wide-ranging actions on Italian territory″ Ganzer told news agency ANSA in quotes confirmed by his office.

In recent years, the GSPC has turned its sights on jihad, or holy war, beyond Algerian borders.

Specific targets of the allegedly planned attacks were not immediately known.

One of the Algerians was already in prison on other charges, and the other two were picked up in Salerno, near Naples, and the province of Catanzaro, the Carabinieri said.

Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu said in a statement the three were arrested on international terrorism charges as part of a broad investigation that involved other countries ``against the terrorist threat hanging over Italy and Europe.″

Police conducted dozens of raids across Italy, seizing instructions on how to build explosive devices, documents containing addresses for web sites tied to al-Qaida and videos showing guerrilla warfare scenes and executions of prisoners, the statement said.

Italy has arrested dozens of North Africans and others accused of international terrorism after the charge was introduced in Italy following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S.

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