Italy arrests 18 suspects for plotting Pakistan attacks
Italian police believe the suspects were involved in 2009 bomb attack in Pakistani city of Peshawar, which killed over 100 people.

Police in Italy have arrested 18 suspects across seven provinces for allegedly plotting terrorist attacks in Pakistan, an official statement said Friday.

According to the police statement, the suspects were allegedly part of an al Qaeda-affiliated network based in Sardinia Island’s city of Olbia, which was dedicated to spearheading attacks in Pakistan.

The suspects may also have been planning an attack against the Vatican, Cagliari Chief Prosecutor Mauro Mura told reporters in a press conference.

"The group was an active, operational cell involved in "numerous bloody acts of terrorism,” Pasquale Errico, police chief for the city of Sassari in Sardinia, said in an interview on Italian channel Sky Tg24.

The cell "also financed illegal migrants into Italy, and purchased large amounts of arms,” said police. It reportedly also aided these migrants to move to countries in northern Europe. The group worked with company owners who applied for permits to employ the migrants, police said in the statement.

The group also sent large sums of money to Pakistan, the statement said.

Police did not release the identities of all the suspects. They did say that the ring leader of the group was a Pakistani house builder based in Sardinia, adding that all of those arrested were Pakistanis and Afghans.

Also accused is an imam, allegedly the group's spiritual chief based in the Lombardy province of Italy. The imam allegedly used his position to gather funds for illegal activities.

Some of those arrested are allegedly responsible for past attacks in Pakistan including the 2009 Mina Bazar attack in Peshawar, which killed more than 100 people, according to the statement.

The group’s aim was to oblige Pakistan to give up the fight against the Taliban and to cease supporting U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the statement said.

Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, in an interview on the television station RAI 3, said: "No country is without risk. But this investigation shows that our police are able to control risks for people in Italy."

Last Modified: 2015-04-25 12:53:17
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