At least 17 people have been arrested across Europe in a major anti-terrorism swoop led by Italian authorities. According to reports, suspects are alleged to have been setting up militant cells to recruit and assist would-be suicide bombers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Police said they had seized poison, remote ignition devices for explosives and manuals on guerrilla warfare. The operation was ordered by prosecutors in Milan. Most of the suspects are being held in northern Italy. But Britain, France and Portugal were also targeted, with arrests reported in all three.
The police investigation in Italy has been going on for several years. Authorities there have long suspected links between Islamic militants and suicide attacks in Iraq. A number of suspects are still on the run. Defending Italy’s anti-terror operations and the expertise of its police, senior magistrate Armando Spataro said existing laws are sufficient.
Italian Interior Minister Giuliano Amato, meanwhile, says most of those arrested are Tunisian. Police said suspects are also accused of illegal immigration, falsifying identity documents and helping to hide people sought for terrorist activity.