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Terror arrests

November 13, 2009

Italian authorities say they have cracked an international terror cell, with arrests made in several European countries. The group is accused of stealing money from soccer players to fund terrorist activities.

Police in front of a cathedral in Milan
Italy has been spared from terrorist attacks so farImage: AP

Seventeen Algerians have been arrested in cities across Europe in connection with an international terror cell, according to Italy's top security official.

"We have proceeded with the arrest of six people in Italy and 17 in total," Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told a news conference on Thursday. "We have dismantled an Algerian terrorist cell which collected funds to finance terrorist activity outside Italy."

The ring is alleged to have stolen the identities of Algerian footballers playing in France, carried out armed robberies and burglaries, and sent the stolen goods to Algeria, a spokesman said.

"We think they selected the identities of certain Algerian soccer players playing in France because it was easy to obtain details about well-known people," he added.

The group allegedly used the athletes' identities to raise money.

Officials say they are also suspected of financing terrorist activities in Algeria, since some of their names appear on international watch lists.

The arrests - which were made in Italy, Algeria, Austria, Britain, France, Switzerland and Spain - were the result of an anti-terrorism investigation in Milan that started in 2007.

Italian authorities have periodically launched round-ups of North Africans with ties to terrorist groups.

So far, there has been no terrorist attack in the Mediterranean country; however, Maroni said the problem had reached "significant dimensions" in the area around the northern city of Milan.

Editor: Nancy Isenson