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Monday, October 02, 2006


Milan, 2 Oct. (AKI) - Italian police on Monday issued six arrest warrants - three of which were served - and announced they had dismantled a terrorist cell suspected of having financed two terror attacks near Algiers last year in which 20 people died. The group, made up mainly of Algerians, was allegedly close to the Salafite Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), which has recently sworn allegiance to al-Qaeda, and to the Armed Islamic Group (GIA).

One of the suspected militants is Mejri Afif, a Tunisian, who was arrested in Switzerland while Ahmed Nacer and El Heit Ali were already in jail on different charges. The other three suspects are reportedly still at large.

The cell had allegedly funded the Algerian militant groups through shops in Italy, raising a reported 2 million euros in three years. It was reportedly led by Djamel Lounici, a former member of the now dissolved Algerian Islamic Salvation Front, arrested last year on arm trafficking charges.

The militants reportedly operated in the northern Lombardy and Liguria regions and in Campania, in southern Italy, as well as in Switzerland, Spain and the Netherlands.

In July, police arrested four suspected members of GSPC who were allegedly preparing terrorist operations in Algeria and in Iraq.

The GSPC, Algeria's largest outlawed militant group, has been operating since 1996. Earlier this year, it rejected an amnesty offered by Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika aimed at ending years of bloodshed during which a reported 200,000 people have died.

The GSPC grew out of another of Algeria's leading militant groups, GIA, held responsible for the nail bomb attack on a Paris metro in 1995 as well as many attacks on civilian and military targets in Algeria.

In contrast to the GIA, the GSPC reportedly gained popular support by vowing to avoid civilian targets inside Algeria - a promise it has not kept.

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