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Saturday, 1 February, 2003, 17:21 GMT
UK forces chief 'was terror target'
Sir Michael Boyce
Sir Michael is Tony Blair's most senior military adviser
Italian police are investigating claims that terror suspects may have been targeting Britain's most senior military official.

A newspaper photograph of Britain's Chief of Defence staff, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, circled in red was reportedly discovered along with explosives during a raid in the southern city of Naples.

It is understood Sir Michael is due to visit Nato's southern headquarters in the city later this month.

In his position, Sir Michael knows he must be a possible target for terrorists

Ministry of Defence spokesman

Italian police arrested 28 Pakistani terror suspects in a flat in Naples on Friday.

The men were charged with association with international terrorism, illegal possession of explosive material and falsification of documents.

The men aged between 20 and 48 were found with enough explosives to blow up a three-storey building and with 100 mobile phones in a routine check for illegal immigrants, officials said.

Maps identifying local US and Nato targets were also said to have been seized during the raid.

Security arrangements

A spokesman at Naples police headquarters said: "We are treating very seriously the discovery of a newspaper with a ringed photograph of Sir Michael Boyce."

Italian police
A quantity of explosives were found
A Ministry of Defence spokesman could not confirm the threat but said: "In his position, Sir Michael knows he must be a possible target for terrorists.

"I am sure any relevant information would be assessed by his security advisers who would decide whether any changes in arrangements are necessary."

Prosecutors in Naples are preparing a file for magistrates and the case is expected to be heard on Monday.

Search continues

Italy's Ansa news agency said targets identified on the maps included the Nato base at the town of Bagnoli, the US Consulate in Naples and an American naval base at a nearby airport.

Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan told the BBC's Urdu Service initial inquiries suggested four of the arrested men had valid work visas, while the others were in Italy legally and had applied for work permits.

Mr Khan said the Pakistani embassy in Rome had sought consular access to the men to ascertain what had happened.

The BBC's David Willey in Rome said police were continuing to carry out an exhaustive search for more explosives believed to be hidden inside the building using sniffer dogs and infra-red equipment.

He said three Italian judges had been appointed to interrogate the men in order to speed up investigations.

This was an unusual step and indicated the importance Italian authorities were attaching to the case, he said.

Dozens of people have been arrested in Italy in recent months.

Five Moroccans suspected of planning terror attacks were arrested near Venice a week ago.

They were found to have maps of Nato bases in northern Italy and a plan of central London.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi pledged his support for the US war against terrorism during his visit to Washington on Tuesday.


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