Italian police are thoroughly searching an apartment building in the city of Naples, where 28 Pakistanis were arrested Thursday and charged with terrorist activities. Police say they have found evidence the men may have been targeting a top British military official.
Police say they found a photo of Britain's chief of defense staff, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, in the Naples apartment where they arrested the Pakistanis suspected of terrorist activities.
The photo was in a Pakistani newspaper, and was circled in red. Italian news reports said the British admiral was due to visit NATO installations in Naples in mid-March. Police were carrying out a routine immigration investigation Thursday morning when they discovered large quantities of explosives. One investigator said the material found was sufficient to blow up a three-story building.
During their search, police also found maps of sensitive targets in the port city, piles of false documents and Islamic religious texts. Police issued a statement saying they believed they had uncovered an al-Qaida terrorist cell.
The Pakistanis have been charged with criminal association aimed at acts of international terrorism. Police will begin questioning them Sunday in the Naples prison.
Italy's interior minister, Giuseppe Pisanu, says the arrests showed that new cells with ties to the Islamic terrorist network are active in Italy. He says larger and more complex investigations are under way in other parts of the country.
Retired U.S. Army Colonel Victor Pisano, a specialist in international terrorism, says, with a war against Iraq looming, extremists may be looking for ways to retaliate. "It's quite likely that various groups are trying to organize themselves in order to respond to this military intervention," he said.
Colonel Pisano says intelligence and police agencies across Europe have stepped up preventive action because of fears that, as preparations are being made for a possible U.S.-led war in Iraq, extremist groups may launch attacks on key military and civilian installations in the Western world.