August 04, 2005


Rome, 3 Aug (AKI) - Italian intelligence services are monitoring the dangers posed by militants who went to Iraq and may return to Europe or elsewhere to carry out attacks, according to the latest edition of a six-monthly report by Italy's civilian and military intelligence services. Italy has been on high alert since last month's deadly attacks in London, and the report released on Wednesday confirmed that the July 7 bombings highlight "the urgency of the Islamic terror threat"' and "point to a significant level of alarm in our country as well."

The secret services noted that terror groups are likely to be small cells, loosely linked to al-Qaeda or to other terror networks and include mostly North Africans.

The report warns of the risk of terror attacks in Europe ahead of elections, an alarm that raises fears in Italy where elections are scheduled in mid-2006.

It said Islamic militants were angry with Western governments for foreign policy decisions such as military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and that these sentiments could lead to "possible, indiscriminate new operations, aimed at influencing or taking advantage of important political events."

The report, based on evidence gathered in the first six months of the year, said that the terrorists' "long-term design"' against Europe appeared focused on the countries' domestic politics.

Many here fear that the country's involvement in Iraq, where some 3,000 Italian soldiers were deployed, increases the risk of a terror attack.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi, a staunch supporter of the U.S.-led campaign in Iraq, said 300 troops will start coming back in September, as security conditions on the ground allow. centre-left leader Romano Prodi, expected to be Berlusconi's opponent at the vote, said he favours a gradual pullout.

Last year in Spain, Islamic militants claimed responsibility for an attack on Madrid three days ahead of the elections, which killed 191 people and injured more than 1,500. Two days after the attack, Islamic militants said they had acted on behalf of al-Qaeda in revenge for then-prime minister Jose Maria Aznar's deployment of peacekeeping troops to Iraq.

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