Italy arrests three in probe into suspected planned attacks in Rome, London

BARI, Italy (Reuters) - Italian police on Tuesday arrested three people as part of an investigation into a militant cell suspected of planning attacks in Rome and London, authorities said on Tuesday.

The cell had been established in Puglia, in southeastern Italy, “to carry out violent attacks with the purpose of international terrorism, in Italy and abroad”, the arrest warrant read.

Two Afghan citizens, one suspected of international terrorism and the other of aiding illegal immigration, were arrested, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said in a statement.

A third man, a Pakistani also suspected of aiding illegal immigration, was detained in Milan later in the day, a police source said.

Police confiscated the suspects’ phones, on which they found footage of presumed targets including airports, ports, shopping centers and hotels in Rome, London and Bari, the main city in Puglia, the arrest warrant said. Investigators also found recordings of prayers and images of weapons and mutilated U.S. soldiers.

Italy has not suffered deadly Islamist attacks like those in France and Belgium, but a number of people have been arrested on suspicion of planning assaults.

In all, the warrant calls for the arrests of five people. They are all officially resident near Bari but two are currently in Afghanistan, the source said.

Three of the suspects are accused of international terrorism and two of aiding illegal immigration.

Bari prosecutor Giuseppe Volpe said at a news conference that there was “absolutely no indication of an imminent attack in Italy”, but prosecutor Elisabetta Pugliese said at the same conference that the investigation was “worrying”.

The group based in Bari is suspected of acting as a local unit or providing logistical support to an international organization linked to Islamic State, investigators wrote in the arrest order.

The group was also active in France and Belgium, the order said.

Reporting by Vincenzo Damiani; Writing by Isla Binnie; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Angus MacSwan