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Group Threatens Attacks on Italy Soon, Internet Site Says

August 15, 2004|From Times Wire Services

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A group claiming to have links to Al Qaeda called on its fighters to attack "all targets" in Italy after the nation ignored the group's Aug. 15 deadline for Italian troops to leave Iraq, an Internet statement said today.

The Abu Hafs al Masri Brigade said Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was one of its main targets, adding that its attacks would not stop until "Iraq is secure."

"The Italian government has dug its own grave after it heeded the top infidel America and remained in Iraq to shed blood ... which is why it is responsible for all the blood that will flow in Italy," the statement said.

Its authenticity could not be immediately verified.

The group has repeatedly threatened Italy and claimed responsibility for attacks, including the Madrid train bombings in March, but it has not been officially linked to any of them.

Italy's state news agency, ANSA, said last week that a top Israeli media analyst and terrorism expert had doubts about the group. Yigal Carmon, president of Memri, or Middle East Media Research Institute in Washington, an independent media institute that specializes in the translation of Arabic newspapers, said the threats differed from typical messages sent out by Islamic militants.

He said, for example, that they failed to cite traditional Islamic verses or quote from the Koran as most militant Muslim groups do. He added that there was no concrete evidence of the existence of the brigade.

"Up until now, no activist or no one even remotely connected with the organization has been captured," he said. "There is no information about its leaders, whereas we have information about the leaders of other Islamic organizations."

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