MILAN, Italy – An Italian judge indicted three North African men Thursday on charges of arms possession and supplying forged documents to Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network, a lawyer for one of the defendants said.
Nabil Benattia of Tunisia, Yassine Chekkouri of Morocco and Abdelhalim Hafed Remadna of Algeria, were arrested in Milan in November in connection with an investigation of the city's mosque and Islamic cultural center. U.S. authorities have described the center as the main Al Qaeda station house in Europe.
Benattia's lawyer, Antonio Nebuloni, said all three suspects were indicted Thursday on charges of criminal association, possession of arms and explosives, and supplying false documents to Al Qaeda members. A trial date was set for Oct. 8, Nebuloni said.
All three allegedly recruited fighters to train in bin Laden's Afghan camps, Milan investigators have said.
Chekkouri worked as the center's librarian and Remadna was the secretary. They also worked at the Milan mosque. Benattia was a frequent visitor to the Islamic center, his lawyer said.
Abdelkader Mahmoud Es Sayed, a fugitive wanted by police in the same probe, was also indicted Thursday.
An Egyptian national, Es Sayed was in Italy last year but left two months before the Sept. 11 attacks. U.S. officials describe him as the organizer of Al Qaeda's Milan cell. Italian authorities believe he may have died fighting for bin Laden in Afghanistan.
Italy has been a focal point in the worldwide investigation launched after Sept. 11 but was already immersed in Al Qaeda-linked cases before then. The U.S. Embassy was shuttered in January 2001 after a terrorist warning. Since Sept. 11, Italian authorities have made more than a dozen arrests of suspected Islamic militants and a Milan court convicted seven Tunisians for helping Al Qaeda recruits.
Last week, eight men were arrested in Milan for allegedly aiding Al Qaeda. At the same time, authorities in Venice combed the city's famed canals for bombs and searched handbags after a tip that the centuries-old Jewish quarter might be targeted by terrorists.
In Berlin, police said Thursday they were examining a tip that an Arab group was planning an armed attack on a synagogue or the Israeli and U.S. embassies in Germany.
Federal police have been looking into the claim for several days, spokesman Norbert Unger said, and had informed security officials from the countries affected.
"We can't yet make a final evaluation," Unger said. "However, there are question marks in several areas." He declined to provide further details.
According to a report in the newsmagazine Focus, a Syrian informant told police he had witnessed a meeting where plans were discussed to storm a synagogue or embassy in Berlin.
Weapons were allegedly distributed at the end of the meeting, and the informant led police to one weapon buried in the city's Tiergarten district, the report said, citing unidentified security officials.
Police have received a stream of tips about potential terrorist threats since Sept. 11 but say they have found no evidence of concrete plans for an attack. Three of the Sept. 11 hijackers and three fugitives wanted for their role in Sept. 11 lived in Hamburg before the attack.