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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Italian spies arrested, Americans sought for kidnap

ROME (Reuters) - Police arrested two officials from Italy's military intelligence agency on Wednesday and a judge issued arrest warrants for four Americans over the alleged CIA kidnapping of a terrorism suspect in 2003, officials said.

Three of the Americans were alleged CIA agents and the fourth worked at the U.S. military air base in Aviano, northern Italy, a statement from the Milan's prosecutor's office said.

It said Marco Mancini, director of a division of the Sismi military intelligence agency, and another Sismi official, had been arrested.

The new arrests and the warrants relate to the 2003 abduction of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar. He says he was kidnapped in Milan, flown to Egypt and tortured.

An Italian court has already issued arrest warrants for 22 suspected U.S. agents over the abduction.

But it was the first time Italian officials have been linked to the abduction.

If an Italian role is confirmed, it would lend evidence to allegations that European countries colluded with the United States in the secret "renditions" of terrorism suspects.

Italian investigators had been wiretapping Nasr before his abduction and accuse him of having ties to al Qaeda and recruiting combatants for
Iraq, according to court documents.

They say the kidnapping broke Italian law and ruined a promising investigation.

Mancini was accused of collaborating in the kidnap, judicial sources said earlier on Wednesday.

European Union's Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini said he respected the prosecutor's decision to arrest Mancini.

"The prosecutor is investigating, he is accusing this officer of the Italian secret service, we'll see whether he is responsible or not," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.

The Abu Omar case is one of the best known examples of alleged CIA secret operations in its war on terror, including the practice of "extraordinary renditions."

Human rights groups condemn the practice, saying suspects have frequently been sent by the United States to countries that practice torture.

Washington acknowledges making secret "rendition" transfers of terrorism suspects between countries, but denies either using torture itself against terrorist suspects or handing them over to countries that do so.
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