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Terrorists reportedly planned Vatican attack

Terrorists with links to al-Qaida planned to blow up pilgrims in St. Peter's Square, at the heart of the Vatican, an Italian newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Corriere della Sera said the plan was frozen two months before the 11 September attacks.

Details of the plan, which appeared in the paper, were contained in a report given to magistrates by Italy's Digos anti-terrorist police.

The document named the terrorists involved and described visits they had made to likely targets.

"The Salafist cell in Italy is thought to be organising plans, now in an embryonic stage, to carry out a sensational terror attack, either against an American target in Europe or against the Vatican," it said.

Among the reconnaissance visits by suspected terrorist scouts was one to an unidentified Venetian church, "well-known for being frequented by Americans," and to St. Peter's Square. Another likely target was the US embassy in Rome.

Superiors in London ordered the cell to suspend activity before 11 September but Italian authorities are said to fear that the projects may be dusted off and put into action.

Daily Telegraph (London)

12 Jul 2002