Italian authorities have thwarted planned terrorist attacks against a Bologna church and Milan's subway, the interior minister said Thursday.

"There was a terrorist project that was to be carried out in our country and the monitoring and prevention action of our forces allowed us to thwart it," Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu told the Apcom and ANSA news agencies. His office later confirmed the comments to The Associated Press.

Pisanu, who spoke to the agencies while in Sardinia to address a political rally, said the plot involved seven people. Three people have been expelled from Italy, two have been arrested, one was under surveillance and one was at large, ANSA reported.

Pisanu's office did not immediately confirm the details on the alleged plotters to the AP.

The Bologna basilica had been among the targets. It contains a 15-century fresco that Muslim groups have interpreted as insulting to Islam, because it depicts Islam's Prophet Muhammad in hell, being devoured by demons.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was a key ally in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and sent some 3,000 troops there after the ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003 to help rebuild the country. The Italian contingent now numbers around 2,600 troops.