July 9, 2005

Italy arrests 142 people in security sweep

MILAN (Reuters) - Italian police have arrested 142 people,
most of them illegal immigrants, and seized a small amount of
explosives from an Italian criminal during a 48-hour security
sweep around Milan, authorities said on Saturday.

The operation, carried out after the London blasts, focused
on sites considered sensitive in Italy's financial capital,
including railway stations and subway lines.

Police said the arrests were for criminal charges such as
theft and drugs possession -- not for terrorism.

Authorities seized about 1.5 kilos of explosives from the
home of an Italian ex-convict, along with a pistol. His past
crimes include burglary, police said. Col. Cosimo Piccino said
the sweep, involving more than 2,000 officers, was meant "to
guarantee greater security after the London attacks and to
combat illegal immigration and street crime."

Police said 83 illegal immigrants were among those
arrested. Expulsion orders were issued for 52 people.

Italy, a staunch U.S. ally in Iraq, has received two
threats from purported Islamic militants in the wake of the
London attacks by suspected al Qaeda bombers. Italian Prime
Minister Silvio Berlusconi has said his nation is at risk.

Italy has dispatched extra police to guard public
transport, heightened security at airports and said more than
13,000 sensitive sites were under special guard.

Italy has long faced domestic terrorism cases and on
Saturday a small package of explosives was found on the back of
a girl's bicycle near the lagoon city of Venice. The bomb,
which fell from the bicycle without exploding, bore the
hallmarks of Italy's long-sought "Unabomber," who has injured
20 people in the past decade.

In a sign of heightened tensions, generally, part of a
terminal at Rome's international airport was briefly evacuated
on Saturday morning when a passenger on a Delta airlines flight
to the United States left his baggage unattended.