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Italy Orders Expulsion of 7 Terror Suspects - 2003-11-19

Italy has ordered the expulsion of seven North Africans accused of being connected to militant Islamic groups. The decision follows the interior ministry announcement that it was deporting a Senegalese Islamic spiritual leader who has publicly supported Osama bin Laden.

Italy's interior ministry said the six Moroccans and one Algerian were being deported for "grave" reasons concerning state security and public order. The move is seen as a new crackdown by Italy on Islamic militants and a tightening of security following the killing of 19 Italians in a suicide bombing in southern Iraq.

The North Africans were accused of supporting organizations with ties to Islamic terrorism. The interior ministry said some of the men being deported had received training in paramilitary camps and two had links with militants captured by U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Another was reported to have links with an Algerian militant group, the Salafi Group for Preaching and Fighting, which has been linked to the al-Qaida terrorist network.

Tuesday, the Italian government announced the deportation of a 39-year-old imam from Senegal. Italian authorities said the man, Fall Mamour, also known as the imam from Carmagnola, a suburb of Turin, posed a serious threat to state security.

In an Italian television interview a few weeks ago, the Muslim preacher predicted that there would be an attack on Italian soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, such as the one last Wednesday. He said Italy's troops would be targeted because they were aiding the U.S.-led coalition. He also predicted there would be attacks in Italy itself.

Mr. Mamour, who had lived in Italy for 11 years, said he had once fought alongside Osama bin Laden and was linked to him by what he said was a blood pact.