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Italian Police Arrest Six Algerians Suspects in Terrorism Sting

Italian police carried out raids and issued arrest warrants for members of an Algerian fundamentalist Islamic cell. Police say the cell financed and gave logistical support to Islamic terrorism responsible for massacres in Algeria.

Italian finance police say the latest anti-terrorism operation has led to the dismantling of an Algerian fundamentalist cell. Italian and Swiss police jointly launched Operation Touareg at dawn. Six arrest warrants were issued for members of the Islamic fundamentalist cell.

All six are Algerians and are charged with international terrorism. One of the suspects was arrested in Switzerland, near Zurich. Two others, already behind bars in Italy, were notified of the new warrant in prison. The other three are still on the run.

Investigations began in 2003. Italian investigators say the six men represented the heart of an Italian cell of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), Algeria's largest outlawed rebel movement.

Police say the cell financed and gave logistical support to Islamic terrorists responsible for massacres in Algeria. They added that the cell's slogan was "Blow oh wind of destruction without mercy or negotiation."

Milan Finance Police Commander Domenico Grimaldi says investigators believe the Italian cell financed two terror attacks in Algeria last year.

The cell is suspected of having financed groups, which in January and March 2005, carried out attacks in Biskra and Chlef, two towns near Algiers, in which a total of 20 people died and as many others were injured.

Finance police were also able to trace the funds that were sent to Algerian militants back home. They said these were collected in bazaars and shops managed by North Africans.

Commander Grimaldi says it is estimated the Italian cell sent 1.3 million euros via banks, 320,000 euros in money transfers and thousands more via cash couriers.

Investigators say the Islamic cell was originally made up of 14 North Africans, some of whom were already on terrorist watch lists of the European Union, United Nations, and United States.

The central figure and leader is believed to have been 44-year old Djamel Lounici, a member of the Algeria's outlawed Islamic Salvation Front, who was arrested in Naples in 2005 for arms trafficking. Investigators say Louinici was the contact for the Algerian militants' European network, which extended to Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Britain, and Spain.