Italian minister says terror attack thwarted
Bologna church or Milan metro reportedly targeted by Islamic extremists
Updated: 6:33 a.m. ET April 6, 2006
CAGLIARI, Sardinia - Italy has thwarted a planned terror attack, Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu was quoted as saying on Thursday during a campaign rally ahead of the April 9-10 general election.
“Now I can say it. There was a terrorist plan aimed at our country which was prevented thanks to the controls and preventative measures taken by our (security) apparatus,” Pisanu was quoted as saying by Italian news agencies.
Pisanu said the target appeared to have been either the Milan metro rail system or a church in the northern city of Bologna, which has a painting of the Prophet Mohammed burning in hell.
He added six people had been arrested, three of whom were later expelled from Italy, two detained and one placed under observation. A seventh man was still sought.
News of the suspected attack plan was reported by Italian newspapers last month.
Italian magistrates have said in the past that they have managed to thwart numerous attacks by suspected Islamist militants and many suspects have been deported from Italy in recent months.
An older, similar story from 2002, recounted in the Guardian:
Al-Qaida plot to blow up Bologna church fresco
Philip Willan in Rome
Monday June 24, 2002
An Islamist terror group linked to al-Qaida is suspected of plotting to blow up Bologna's most important church to erase the offence of a 15th-century Gothic fresco showing Mohammed being tormented by devils in hell.
A key alleged figure known as "Amsa the Libyan", who was arrested in Britain three weeks ago for possessing false papers, is suspected of having passed orders from al-Qaida leaders in Afghanistan and Iran to terrorist cells in Europe.
The Milan daily Corriere della Sera reported that in a telephone call intercepted by police in February, one of the suspect's alleged associates discussed plans for an attack on the Church of San Petronio, which has a large fresco by Giovanni da Modena showing the founder of the Islamic religion in hell.
The painter was inspired by Dante, who consigned Mohammed to the ninth circle of hell - reserved for religious schismatics - in his Divine Comedy. The fresco, held in a side-chapel, is seen by many Muslims as a symbol of Christian intransigence.
Amsa was monitored as he allegedly passed instructions to al-Qaida cells in Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain. In one intercepted telephone call he apparently discussed an attack on the US embassy in Amsterdam.
The fresco in question