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Italian police arrest suspects for alleged terror plot

  • Story Highlights
  • Italian police: Two Moroccans arrested on suspicion of planning terror attacks
  • Men suspected of "international terrorism," a crime introduced in Italy after 9/11
  • Source: Men were not close to carrying out an attack, but determined to do so
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From Alessio Vinci CNN Rome Bureau Chief
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ROME, Italy (CNN) -- Italian police Tuesday arrested two Moroccans suspected of preparing a series of terrorist attacks near Milan in northern Italy, the police announced.

Officials say the two were recruiting men and planning attacks against military and civilian targets, including the immigration office of a police station, a barracks for the Carabinieri -- or special paramilitary units -- and a shopping center. All presumed targets are located in the vicinity of Milan, Italy's financial hub.

Police named the two suspects as Rachid Ilhami, a 31-year-old preacher, and Gafir Abdelkader, 42. Both are accused of "international terrorism," a crime introduced in Italy after the attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States.

The two men have not been charged, but, having been arrested "on suspicion of planning and carrying out an act of international terrorism," they could spend up to one year in jail before being formally charged.

A source familiar with the investigation suggested the two men were not close to carrying out an attack. The source declined to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

"The suspects did not have links to any terrorist organization nor did they have the knowledge of how to handle explosives," the source said.

He said they had not trained in "terror camps" and did not have links with "known terror organizations abroad.

Ilhami preaches at a cultural center in Macherio, a town of 6,000 where Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his family live when he is not in Rome.

The arrests were carried out after a lengthy investigation which included wire tapping, police said.

The source, who is familiar with investigation, said that the authorities had no information that an attack was imminent, but claimed that the men were doing all they could to learn how to attack.

"The Internet provided them with the necessary tools to strike, even if they had limited or no operational knowledge about how to plan an attack," the source added.

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