Italian Raids Net 5 Terror Suspects

Police arrested five terror suspects Wednesday during raids in northern Italy in a crackdown on two extremist cells accused of planning attacks in Italy and abroad, officials said.

Two of the suspects were arrested in Milan and three in Turin, police said, after investigations into alleged cells based in the two cities.

Police in Milan said they had issued 13 arrest warrants against suspects, mostly Tunisian, believed to have links with international terror organizations including Ansar al-Islam (search), a group active in northern Iraq and believed to have ties to Usama bin Laden's (search) Al Qaeda (search).

The suspects are believed to have planned attacks in Italy and abroad, and to have recruited extremists to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq, police said. The officials did not give details on the alleged plans.

Some members of the group have fought in Bosnia and received training in Al Qaeda-run camps in Afghanistan, Milan police said.

The whereabouts of the man believed to be the cell's leader, Tunisian Lassad Ben Mohamed Sassi, are unknown after he traveled to Algeria in 2000 to join terror groups operating in the North African country, police said.

The two men detained in Milan were believed to be from Tunisia. Police in Turin said they had detained three Moroccan men suspected of being linked with militant organization, the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (search).

The group is believed to have carried out the May 2003 bombings in Casablanca, Morocco, but Turin police said it was not clear if the suspects arrested Wednesday were directly involved in the attacks.

The group is also believed to have ties to Al Qaeda.

Police said the investigation shed light on suspected terrorist activities in the northern Italian region of Lombardy between 1997 and 2001. Wednesday's operation was made possible largely thanks to collaboration of a Tunisian arrested in 2001 and later convicted for belonging to an extremist group.