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Tuesday, 20 August, 2002, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
Italy arrests men over 'church plot'
Bologna - statue of Neptune
Bologna is the latest Italian city to suffer a terrorism scare
Police in Italy have arrested five people on suspicion of plotting to attack a church in the northern city of Bologna.

The men - one Italian and four Moroccans - were reportedly held after being seen filming in and around the city's San Petronio basilica.

The arrests follow reports in the Italian media that the al-Qaeda network was planning to bomb the basilica, which contains a fresco considered by some Muslims to be offensive.

The 15th Century work depicts the Prophet Mohammed being devoured by demons in Hell.

Police say those arrested were overheard expressing the hope that no one would understand their conversation in Berber, a North African language.

Crackdown

The move is the latest in a series of operations against groups allegedly related to al-Qaeda in Italy.

At the beginning of August, in Cremona, police arrested a Kenyan-born suspect on suspicion of being an arms trafficker with links to the al-Qaeda network.

And in July, police in Milan arrested nine people, mostly from north Africa, on charges of providing logistical support and false papers to members of Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

In February, four Tunisians alleged to have links with al-Qaeda were jailed on charges or intent to obtain and transport explosives and chemicals.

One of the men, Essid Sami Ben Khemais, whom prosecutors said was the group's leader, was suspected of planning an attack on the US Embassy in Rome in January last year.

Four Moroccans are also currently facing charges relating to an apparent plot to carry out a chemical attack on the embassy in February.


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11 Jul 02 | Europe
24 Feb 02 | Europe
22 Feb 02 | Europe
11 Dec 01 | Europe
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