Three Algerians were served with arrest warrants in Italy on Friday on suspicion of links to international terrorism. The men were accused of planning attacks in Iraq and Italy.

The arrests were part of a nationwide sweep against an extremist Algerian group, the Salafist Group for Call and Combat, believed to have links with al-Qaida and fighting for the creation of an Islamic state in Algeria.

Two of the Algerian men were arrested in the city of Salerno and in a town near Catanzaro. The third warrant was served in prison to the alleged ringleader of the suspected Islamic cell. He was already being held on other charges.

The men were believed to be providing fake documents to the group's members and recruiting new ones. Carabiniere General Giampaolo Ganzer headed the unit that made the arrests.

General Ganzar said: The action cut off the head of a cell which was active and dangerous and ready to enter into action against targets abroad but potentially also organizing to attack targets in Italy.

Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu said police conducted dozens of raids across Italy, seizing instructions on how to build explosive devices, documents containing addresses for web sites linked to al-Qaida and videos showing guerrilla warfare scenes and executions of prisoners.

The man already in prison has been named as Yamine Bouhrama, and he has been in custody in Naples since November 15.

Police wiretaps picked up a conversation following the July terror bombings in London in which Mr Bouhrama and an unidentified person talked about finding a ship like the Titanic, packing it with explosives and killing 10,000 people in Italy.

In a separate conversation after July terror attack in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Mr Bouhrama was recorded as saying that soon there'll be an even bigger celebration.

The two other Algerians arrested on Friday, are believed to have been Bourhama's chief aides in plotting attacks and maintaining links between cells in southern and northern Italy.