An anti-terrorism operation ordered by Italian prosecutors has led to the arrests of 17 Algerians and Tunisians in Italy, Britain, France and Portugal. Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome.
Milan prosecutors ordered the anti-terrorism operation as part of an investigation, which has been under way since 2003. Italian police said at least 20 arrest warrants were issued for suspected Islamic extremists.
Police said the operation was carried out in four European countries including Italy, Britain, France, and Portugal. The men arrested were all Tunisians and Algerians and believed to be setting up Salafist jihadi militant cells.
Police executing the warrants said they discovered al-Qaida manuals on how to produce explosives and also seized poisons and instructions on guerrilla warfare.
Interior Minister Giuliano Amato expressed satisfaction at the arrests and said it was another effort at breaking up Islamic terrorist networks that operate in Europe.
He said these cells were and are present also in Italy with the principal aim of recruiting, training and making means available for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Minister Amato added that the operation was an example of strong cooperation between police forces in a number of European nations.
The minister said the terror network knows no borders and is able to organize itself and its operations because of its presence in several countries. He added that European authorities also must react as a network. It is necessary to go beyond one's own borders in the same way these Islamic networks do.
Police said the raids were carried out in four different northern Italian cities and arrests were made in Britain and Portugal. Two warrants were also issued in France. The suspects were accused of illegal immigration, falsifying identity documents and helping to hide people sought for terrorist activity.