(ANSA) - Milan, December 2 - Milan anti-terrorist police on Tuesday arrested two Moroccans suspected of belonging to al Qaeda who were planning attacks on targets in northern Italy.
Police said Rachid Ilhami, 31, and Gafir Abdelkader, 42, had planned attacks on a supermarket and a night club carpark in Seregno and two police stations in Giussano, both towns in the northern province of Monza.
Wiretaps revealed the men had initially planned to use a van packed with explosives but then decided on oxygen cylinders after Internet research.
Police said the men had revealed their links to al Qaeda during their conversations.
A total of ten people are under investigation as a result of the operation.
Police also seized the Peace Cultural Centre in the village of Macherio, where Ilhami worked as a preacher.
According to investigators, small groups of fundamentalists met at the centre in the evenings after the day's official sermons were finished.
Both Ilhami and Abdelkader are thought to have lived in Italy for several years.
Last year police chiefs warned of the risk of attacks in Italy by North African terror groups linked to al Qaeda after a number of arrests in Lombardy.
In November last year police arrested 20 people in a crackdown against a suspected Islamic terrorist cell in Milan accused of recruiting would-be suicide bombers and sending them off to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The cell was believed to be linked to North African terrorist groups including Algeria's Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, known by its French initials GSPC, which recently renamed itself al-Qaida of the Islamic Maghreb.
In June 2007 nine arrest warrants were issued for members of the same organisation believed to have offered financial and logistic support to terrorists operating in Tunisia and Algeria.
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