January 31, 2003

AT LEAST THEY’RE NOT ALGERIANS, THIS TIME:

NAPLES (Reuters) – Italian police have arrested 28 Pakistani men suspected of links to al Qaeda in one of the biggest anti-terrorism operations Italy has seen since the September 11 attacks on the United States.

Military police burst into an apartment in central Naples on Wednesday night as part of a routine sweep against illegal immigration and ended up discovering enough explosives to blow up a three-story building, officials said on Friday.

They arrested all 28 men staying in the apartment after finding 800 grams (28 ounces) of explosives, 230 feet of fuse and various electronic detonators crammed behind a false wall.

Islamic religious texts, photos of “jihad” (holy war) martyrs, piles of false documents, maps of the Naples area, addresses of contacts around the world and more than 100 mobile telephones were also found in the run-down lodgings, police said.

A judicial source said the maps had various targets marked out on them including the headquarters of NATO’s southern European command, the U.S. consulate in Naples and a U.S. naval base at Capodichino, just outside the port city.

As Austin Bay has already pointed out, the war buildup isn’t “distracting” from the hunt for Al Qaeda. It’s flushing Al Qaeda from its holes, and making its operatives easier to catch.