Italian police stage raids on group linked to suspected Pakistan plot

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A Italian Police van drives in Piazza Duomo on May 3, 2011 in Milan, Italy. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni has upped the security in Italy as fears about retalliation attacks spread following the killing of Osama Bin Laden, who was was killed two days ago in an operation by U.S. Navy Seals in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

ROME, April 24 (Reuters) – People being investigated in a counter-terrorism investigation in Italy may have been planning an attack against the Vatican, one of the prosecutors leading the probe said on Friday.

Cagliari Chief Prosecutor Mauro Mura told reporters that as well as planning to launch attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan, as earlier reported, the suspects may also have been aiming to target the Vatican.

Police conducted raids across Italy on Friday, targeting 18 people suspected of links with al Qaeda. Some were arrested, including the group’s suspected spiritual leader, but others were believed to have left the country.

“We don’t have proof, we have strong suspicion,” said Mario Carta, head of the police unit leading the investigation said when asked for more details on a possible attack against the seat of the Catholic Church.

He said that, in intercepted telephone calls, investigators had heard the suspects say they would launch a “big jihad in Italy,” conversations that also suggested a target might be the Vatican.

All the suspects are Pakistanis or Afghans, Carta told Reuters earlier, adding that the operation was still in progress.

(Reporting By Gavin Jones; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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