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Italy warrants for 22 purported CIA operatives

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Italy
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
Silvio Berlusconi

ROME, Italy (CNN) -- An Italian judge has issued European arrest warrants for 22 purported CIA agents alleged to have kidnapped an Egyptian-born Muslim cleric in Milan in 2003, a prosecutor said Friday.

The warrants make it legal for the 22 to be arrested in any of the European Union's member nations.

Prosecutor Armando Spataro said the warrants were issued December 20.

The 22 were already facing arrest warrants in Italy, and are considered fugitives.

Prosecutors have asked Justice Minister Roberto Castelli to call on the United States to extradite the 22. Castelli has not done so, and has said he needs more information about the allegations.

The case revolves around the alleged abduction of Osama Nasr Mostafa Hassan, also known as Abu Omar, in February 2003.

At the time of his disappearance, Milan prosecutors were investigating him for alleged links to terrorism.

Prosecutors allege that a CIA team seized him, flew him to Egypt, and used torture as part of an interrogation there.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi summoned U.S. Ambassador Mel Sembler for an explanation. No details of their meeting were released.

Former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer said the Italian military secret service had approved the operation, and CIA sources who refused to be named told CNN that the agency had briefed and sought approval from its Italian counterpart for such an abduction.

But the Italian government vigorously denied having authorized Hassan's kidnapping, which it called illegal.

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