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15 al-Qaida Suspects Arrested in Italy - 2002-09-12


Italian police have arrested 15 Pakistanis believed to be members of the al-Qaida terror network. The police say some of the men are named in U.S. anti-terrorist investigations.

Police in the Sicilian city of Caltanisetta announced the arrest of 15 Pakistanis, saying they believed the men were members of Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network. The men have been accused of subversive association with terrorist intent.

The police said that the men, who were taken into custody last week, were on a merchant vessel that left Casablanca, Morocco in August. The ship was en route to Libya and had not been planning to stop in Italy.

The ship was stopped after the Italian secret services, working with U.S. naval intelligence, informed the police they believed the vessel was carrying terrorists. The police chief of Caltanisetta said that some of the men's names appear in anti-terrorist investigations being carried out by U.S. intelligence services.

The chief said that all the men were found carrying false passports. They also had notes and documents with alpha-numeric codes that he described as "interesting." According to police, the documents provide evidence the men are linked to Al Qaeda.

The men are in custody in Sicily and will be questioned in the next few days. The police chief also said that the men were not planning attacks on Italian territory.

Italian police have been on high alert since the September 11 attacks in the United States. Since then, Italy has arrested more than 30 people believed to be linked with al-Qaida.

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