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Italian police intercept plot to attack church

Four Moroccans and an Italian were arrested on Monday by police in Italy on charges of plotting to blow up a basilica in Bologna.

The church contains a 15th-century fresco that depicts the Muslim prophet Mohammed in hell.

Prosecutor Paolo Giovagnoli said the five men were arrested Monday in the church itself, San Petronio Basilica, and were accused of criminal association with the aim of terrorism. In June, local media reported that Islamic extremists were plotting to attack the basilica, and police subsequently assigned plainclothes officers to guard the church.

The five men, who live in Padua, a city in northeastern Italy, were arrested after they videotaped the fresco and the central altar, and were overheard saying worrisome things, Giovagnoli said.

"They were heard saying phrases hostile to (the Christian) religion, expressing the possibility of destroying" religious symbols, Giovagnoli said. Among the phrases the men said, according to the prosecutor: -- "That which (Osama) bin Laden does is just what's needed." -- "If they don't take it (the fresco) away, everything will come tumbling down."

Tariq Ramadan: The Muslim Martin Luther? (
Muslims say fresco must be destroyed (Institute of Art and Law UK)
Fear and Loathing of Muslims and Immigrants? (Bologna Centre Journal of International Affairs - Johns Hopkins University)


22 Aug 2002