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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Italy arrests 40 in security crackdown

ROME - Police raided Internet cafes, money-transfer offices and long-distance phone call centers catering to Muslims and arrested 40 people in a crackdown linked to Britain's announcement it had thwarted an alleged terror plot, authorities said Friday.

The arrests in Rome, Milan, Venice, Florence, Naples and other cities on Thursday and Friday were "part of an extraordinary operation that followed the British anti-terrorist operation," the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

More than 4,100 people were stopped for identification checks, the ministry said.

Twenty-eight people were arrested for violating rules on residence permits and 12 were arrested for property crimes, the statement said, without giving details. The raids resulted in 114 expulsion orders.

A year ago, a similar security sweep in Italy at money transfer centers, Muslim butcher shops and similar places resulted in 141 arrests. Those raids came a few weeks after the London subway attacks.

On Friday, police also searched 15 homes occupied mostly by Pakistanis in several Italian cities as part of a Belgian police probe into suspected financing of terrorism, the ministry said.

That operation captured documents and led to three expulsion orders of foreigners who had irregular residence papers.

Italian authorities said Belgian police are investigating a group of Pakistanis suspected of financing Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, a Pakistan-based terrorist group believed to have ties to al-Qaida.

The latest raids targeting Muslims in Italy triggered the ire of a spokeswoman for the Islamic Anti-Defamation League in Italy.

"More than 4,000 people were stopped and humiliated to allow police to arrest 12 chicken thieves and 28 clandestine" migrants, the Italian news agency Apcom quoted spokeswoman Dacia Valent as saying.

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