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Last Updated: Monday, 17 November, 2003, 17:44 GMT
Italian group backs Iraq fighters
Tamsin Smith
Tamsin Smith
BBC reporter in Rome

A group of Italian militants involved in staging anti-war protests is raising funds to support the armed Iraqi resistance, the BBC has learned.

The discovery comes as Italy mourns 19 men killed in a suicide attack in Iraq last week.

The "Antiimperialista" organisation's internet campaign asks people to send "10 Euros to the Iraqi resistance".

Nasiriya attack
Nineteen Italians were killed in last week's suicide attack in Nasiriya
They say they have collected 12,000 euros ($14,165) in the past eight weeks and admit the money used could be used to buy weapons.

The Antiimperialistas are a group of European anti-war and anti-globalisation supporters.

They are currently organising an anti-war demonstration in Italy next month, and it remains to be seen whether news of the fund-raising activities will deter more moderate anti-war activists from attending.

The organisation's Italian branch says the money will be given to an Iraqi resistance group known as the Iraqi Patriotic Opposition.

Independent Iraqi sources in London say the leaders of this group have a long history of association with the Baath party and are now back in Iraq supporting the armed resistance.

To think there are people in Italy collecting money in order to kill our heroes is really a shame
Lucio Malan
Forza Italia Party
The Italian spokesman of the antiimperialistas, Moreno Pasquinelli, says the money collected so far is in an Italian bank account.

Mr Pasquinelli said it would be taken to Iraq in January. He was candid when asked about raising money for the Iraqi Patriotic Opposition which says it actively supports military resistance.

"Its not our affair how they use this money. If they want to use it to print papers for example, or to buy weapons in order to fight for the Iraqi independence," he said.

"We support the armed struggle in Iraq. our money is to help them, it doesn't matter to us if they use it buy weapons, Kalashnikovs, or medicines for people."

When asked to confirm if the money raised could be used to buy weapons he admitted: "Yes they could, and why not?"

Shame

The Italian Interior Ministry refused to comment, saying the matter was with the security services.

Coffins of Italians killed in attack
The campaign contrasts with the mood of mourning in Italy
Lucio Malan, a senator from the governing Forza Italia Party, was shocked to hear about the campaign.

"The first word that comes to my mind is shame and horror," he told BBC Radio Four's Today programme.

"They are raising money against people (Italian troops) who are defending the peace, the security of the people of that country. They have not killed or wounded anyone in that country they are helping to take away unexploded bombs."

He said the group's activities "collecting money to give it outspokenly to terrorist groups" was certainly illegal in Italy.




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