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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 April 2006, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK
Italy foils election terror plot
Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu
Giuseppe Pisanu was speaking at a Forza Italia rally
Italian authorities have described how they thwarted a terrorist attack ahead of the general elections.

Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu told an election rally in Sardinia that an attack on a church in Bologna and the Milan underground railway was foiled.

Italian radio described the suspects as North African Islamists.

Mr Pisanu was speaking at a rally organised by the Forza Italia party of PM Silvio Berlusconi, whose main rival is Romano Prodi in the 9 April polls.

"I can now tell you this: there was a terrorist plan which was to have been carried out in our country, and surveillance and preventive action by our services enabled us to thwart this," he told the crowd.

He said three suspects had been deported and two were in custody.

Morocco arrest

Italian newspapers first carried reports of the anti-terror operation last month.

Mr Pisanu said one of the targets was the church of San Petronio, in Bologna. The church has a painting of the Prophet Muhammad in hell, which has been criticised by Italian Muslims in the past.

The Italian Corriere della Sera newspaper reported that the suspects had planned to carry out attacks before the elections.

According to the AFP news agency, Moroccan police arrested nine people in March who were "planning terrorist acts in Paris and Bologna".

The group is reported to be linked to a radical Algerian Islamist movement, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC).

Italians go to the polls on 9-10 April. The latest opinion polls put Mr Berlusconi's centre-right coalition up to five points behind his centre-left rival Mr Prodi before surveys were suspended for the last days of campaigning.

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