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Source: Italy seeks Americans over abduction

By Alessio Vinci
CNN

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Italy
Milan (Italy)
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
Egypt

MILAN, Italy (CNN) -- An Italian judge has issued arrest warrants against 13 U.S. citizens believed to be CIA agents in connection with the kidnapping of an Egyptian-born cleric, a source close to the investigation has told CNN.

The source said the arrest warrants were issued Thursday afternoon. There has been no official word.

None of the suspects are believed to be still in Italy, the source said.

Milan prosecutors accuse the 13 of having organized the kidnapping of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, known as Abu Omar, in the Muslim community in Milan, in Milan on February 17, 2003.

The cleric was then allegedly secretly flown to Egypt, where he was interrogated and tortured.

Italian investigators say Nasr had been under surveillance for possible terrorist activities and they were close to arresting him.

The deputy district attorney of Milan and lead investigator, Armando Spataro, issued this statement to CNN:

"If the kidnapping of the person in question had not been carried out, Nasr ... would now be detained and subject to Italian justice. ... More importantly, the ongoing investigations had revealed important information which could have led to other suspects and arrests.

"The Italian investigation was a major breakthrough into a terrorist network in Milan which also operated overseas. Therefore, the kidnapping of Nasr ... is not just a totally illegal act that violates gravely Italy's sovereignty, but it is also a damaging and counterproductive act against the efficiency of the fight against terrorism."

It is unclear to what extent the Italian intelligence or the Italian government was aware of any kidnapping operation, because all of the arrest warrants have been issued against U.S. citizens.

Originally prosecutors sought the arrest of 19 agents, but the judge decided to issue arrest warrants against only 13, the source said.

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