Italian police have arrested 24 Veneto separatists on suspicion of planning a violent campaign aimed at gaining independence for the wealthy region.
Police said that the group had built a tank, modified from a tractor, that they intended to deploy in St. Mark’s Square in Venice.
Among those arrested were Flavio Contin, one of the founders of Serenissima Commando, a group that carried out an attack at the bell tower of St. Mark’s Basilica in 1997.
Also detained were Franco Rocchetta (roketa), a former MP and deputy foreign minister and campaigner for Venetian independence. He founded the Liga Veneta, an original member of the Lega Nord which is a federation of regionalist parties.
Last month an unofficial referendum was held in which an overwhelming majority of participants voted in favour of leaving Italy, however it has been reported in local press that most of the votes were generated on computers abroad.
The economic crisis has increased support for independence in the northeastern region of Veneto, where local businesses have been hit hard.