Rome, 12 May (AKI)
Italian police have accused two French men of planning Al-Qaeda attacks in France and Europe. The French nationals were detained in Italy over alleged illegal immigration offences in November and are now believed to be important figures in the terror network.
The suspects are Bassam Ayachi, 63, an imam of Syrian descent with French nationality, and Raphael Gendron, a 34-year-old French citizen.
Their suspected terror targets included France’s main international airport, Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, and unnamed locations in Britain.
The men have been held in an Italian jail in the southern city of Bari since November as part of an investigation into illegal immigration involving local police and Ucigo, the anti-terrorism police division.
Subsequent checks allowed officers to identify two leading men involved in “the communication of Al-Qaeda in Europe,” Italian police said in a statement.
Police said the men were equipped with arms and explosives and were organising terror attacks and guerilla actions.
France, Britain and Italy all have soldiers serving in a NATO-led peacekeeping force in Afghanistan.
The two men were arrested in November 2008 when they were caught using their camper van to try to smuggle in illegal immigrants from Greece.
Adnkronos has learned the two were supplying and spreading video and other messages via the internet.
Bassam Ayachi has been described a spiritual leader, committed to proselytising on behalf of Al-Qaeda.
According to police investigations, Gendron is a computer engineer who provided the technical knowledge needed to spread propaganda via the internet to support the terror network.
One investigator said that the subject was of “great importance” and the evidence demonstrated the commitment of the two men to spread propaganda with a view to carrying out attacks.