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Italy Defies Militant Threat

An Islamist group urges attacks after Rome refuses to pull troops from Iraq.

August 16, 2004|From Reuters

ROME — Italy will not be intimidated by threats from Muslim militants but cannot dismiss the possibility of an attack, Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu said Sunday after a group claiming Al Qaeda links promised to strike.

The Abu Hafs Masri Brigade called on its fighters to hit "all targets" in Italy after its Sunday deadline for Italian troops to quit Iraq was ignored.

Another Islamist group threatened to attack Italy and the Netherlands if they did not withdraw troops from Iraq, according to an Internet statement posted Sunday by a group calling itself Islamic Tawhid, as the deadline set by the Masri Brigade expired. It was not possible to verify the authenticity of either statement.

Italy has about 2,700 troops in Iraq, and the Netherlands has 1,300.

Pisanu told reporters that militants were using the media to hype their threats and played down reports that a van packed with explosives might have crossed into Italy from France.

"We are not underestimating [the threats], but we are not going to let ourselves be frightened, and we will continue with the heightened security measures we have put in place," he said.

The Abu Hafs Masri Brigade has repeatedly threatened to hit Italy if it kept troops in Iraq, and on Sunday it said it would put words into action. U.S. officials say the group's links to Al Qaeda are unclear.

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