The Italian police said the suspects, mostly Tunisians had been arrested across Europe as part of the sweep against a cell based in the northern Italian region of Lombardy. In executing the arrest warrants, the police said that they found Qaeda training manuals for making explosives, detonation devices and poisons, and instructions of guerilla tactics.
The suspects were wanted on charges ranging from association with the aim of committing international terrorism to falsifying documents to aid illegal immigrants.
The group’s members had been indoctinated in militancy in mosques since at least 1998. In one intercepted call, a suspected cell member said that “things are being done with extreme calm; hasted does not bring the desired results.”
Eleven of the suspects were arrested in the Italian cities of Milan, Reggio Emilia, Imperia and Bergamo. Nine others were arrested on warrants issued in France, Britain and Portugal.
The Lomabardy cell has ties with a group of Islamics in the neighbouring Emilia Romagna whose aim is to establish an Islamic state extending from Morocco to China. Intercepted phone calls made clear the aim of sending murder-suicide fighters to Iraq via Syria, including specific instructions on shaving off beards before departure to give the “Impression of making a peaceful trip”.
In Britain, the authorities said that two suspects have been arrested in London and Manchester and faced extradition to Ital. The men have been identified as Ali Chehidi and Mohamed Khermiri who are accused of forging documents to help volunteers enter Italy illegaly.
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