CAIRO, Egypt – Al Qaeda-linked Islamic militants on Monday threatened to "shake the earth" everywhere in Italy if Rome does not withdraw troops from Iraq.
The Internet statement attributed to the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades (search), the second such threat against the government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (search ) in two weeks, was post on a Web site known from carrying materials from Islamic militants.
"This is a warning and a threat to the Italian government, which devoted itself to serving the criminal American crusade, to follow suit with those who preceded you and leave the land of Iraq," the statement said. "Otherwise, we will change our correspondence into words of blood and shake the earth everywhere in your (lands)."
"To the despicable Italian prime minister: If you have not heard this threat, then we will make you hear it in Rome, in every place and under the feet of your people, with Allah's will. We give you, Berlusconi, a few days only, then you will see things that displease you," it said.
The Italian government had no immediate comment. In the past, it has ignored such threats. There was no way to verify the authenticity of the statement.
U.S. officials and some terrorism experts believe Abu Hafs al-Masri, which claimed responsibility for the March train bombings that killed about 200 people in Madrid, lacks credibility and has only tenuous ties to Al Qaeda. It has issued claims for events in which it almost certainly had no involvement, including blackouts in North America and Britain.
A July 16 statement by the same group, threatened to burn Italy if Berlusconi, a staunch supporter of President Bush, was not removed from office. The premier has remained steadfast, though many Italians have called for a troops' withdrawal.
On Saturday, another group, The Tawhid Islamic Group (search ), warned Australia and Italy to withdraw their forces from Iraq.
Italy sent 3,000 troops to Iraq after the ouster of Saddam Hussein to help rebuild the country. The contingent is based in the southern city of Nasiriyah. Australia has nearly 900 troops in and around Iraq.