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Intelligence Chief Questioned in Italy

July 16, 2006|From Reuters

MILAN, Italy — The head of Italy's military intelligence agency was questioned by prosecutors for the first time Saturday on suspicion of helping the CIA kidnap a terrorism suspect in Milan, judicial sources said.

The development makes Nicolo Pollari the highest-ranking official connected to the Italian investigation, which has already led to the arrests this month of his No. 2, Marco Mancini, and another official of the intelligence agency, known as SISMI.

Both were released from house arrest Saturday but were believed to still be under investigation, a lawyer for one of the men said.

Twenty-six Americans, most believed to be CIA agents, face arrest warrants over the 2003 abduction of radical Muslim cleric Hassan Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar.

Prosecutors allege a CIA-led team grabbed Nasr off a Milan street, bundled him into a van and flew him to his native Egypt. Nasr says he was tortured there while being questioned.

A judicial source said prosecutors, investigating allegations of an Italian role in the abduction, questioned Pollari for about four hours at the Milan prosecutors' offices, which were under heavy security.

A report by a Council of Europe investigator last month said the case was one of the most disturbing in what the inquiry alleges is a global "spider's web" of secret CIA flights transporting terrorism suspects.

Italy's former government and SISMI have denied a role, but the investigator, Swiss Sen. Dick Marty, said, "It is unlikely that the Italian authorities were not aware of this large-scale CIA operation."

Pollari could not be reached for comment. He has said SISMI had no knowledge of a plot to kidnap Nasr, who had political refugee status in Italy at the time of his abduction.

Nasr, now held in a prison outside Cairo, faces an Italian arrest warrant for suspected terrorist activity, including recruiting militants for Iraq.

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