Nine men from Morocco suspected of planning a chemical attack on the American embassy in Rome are being kept in custody. The decision by an Italian judge follows their arrest last week and the discovery of a tunnel near the embassy building.
Italian investigators suspect a group of Moroccans arrested last week could belong to a "terrorist organization," which was to provide logistic support for a chemical attack on the U-S embassy in Rome.
Police picked up eight of the men in Rome and one other turned himself in to the authorities in the southern Calabria region.
Four of the men were found with detailed maps of the embassy area, including Rome's water network. Police say they also possessed large quantities of a cyanide compound.
The Moroccans have denied wrongdoing. They were unable to explain why they had maps marking the embassy area and how the cyanide compound got into their apartment. They explained that many people used to sleep in their apartment.
But an Italian judge ruled Sunday that the men should remain behind bars, although they have not yet been charged. The judge said the men could be "part of a terrorist organization that aimed, through the use of poisonous substances, to carry out acts of indiscriminate fanaticism."
Following the arrests of the Moroccans last week, police checked passageways under the U.S. embassy complex that carry water, gas, and electricity to buildings in the area. They discovered a hole in the wall of a tunnel near the embassy.
The hole is believed not to have been there when the tunnels were last checked in mid-January. Investigators suspect the hole was to be used to help carry out a chemical attack on the embassy.
Italian security sources have been on high alert since the September 11 attacks in the United States.
Washington has warned that U.S. and Western business symbols in Italy are particularly vulnerable to a terror attack. Italian police have seized more than 20 suspected terrorists during the past five months.