French terrorism suspect arrested in Italy, suspected of recruiting fighters for Afghanistan

By Angela Charlton, AP
Sunday, October 3, 2010

French terrorism suspect arrested in Italy

PARIS — Italian police have arrested a Frenchman suspected of links to a network recruiting fighters for Afghanistan, a French official said Sunday.

The man was arrested in Naples in southern Italy in early September, based on a French probe underway for several months into alleged involvement in a terrorist enterprise, the official said. The official was not authorized to be publicly named because terrorism cases are classified.

The official said the man is suspected of having fought in Afghanistan and belonging to a network for recruiting fighters.

Two Italian newspapers say the man is 28 years old, of Algerian origin and suspected to be a member of al-Qaida.

Il Mattino, a newspaper based in Naples, and the Naples editions of La Repubblica said Sunday that the suspect had notes and a kit for making bombs when he was arrested. The French official, however, said the material seized was “insignificant.”

Il Mattino said the arrest took place two weeks ago but only became public during a closed-door hearing in Naples that approved the suspect’s extradition to France.

The arrest comes at a time of heightened concerns about a terrorist attack in Europe.

The U.S. government issued a travel alert Sunday warning Americans of potential terrorist threats in Europe and urging them to be vigilant in public places, including tourist spots and transportation hubs.

French officials have not however disclosed any concrete new threats.

France’s Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux told AP Television News on Sunday that “The threat is real. Our vigilance is total.” But he said there was “no change” to France’s own terrorism alert level.

Italian Interior Minister Maroni was quoted in a newspaper interview Sunday as saying Italy is “prepared” for a terrorist attack. “But — as shown by what happened last year in Milan when a foreigner blew himself up in front of a military barracks — the situation is complicated.”

Last year, a Libyan man set off a small bomb while trying to enter an army barracks in Milan, seriously injuring himself and slightly wounding the guard who stopped him. Maroni said at the time that the man appeared to be opposed to Italy’s military missions overseas. Two other North Africans were also arrested in the case.

Associated Press writer Alessandra Rizzo in Rome and APTN reporter Nicolas Garriga in Paris contributed to this report.

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