Italy arrests suspected Al-Qaeda bomber at Rome airport

The suspected Al-Qaeda militant was arrested at Rome's Fiumicino airport (above).
The suspected Al-Qaeda militant was arrested at Rome's Fiumicino airport (above). PHOTO: REUTERS

ROME (REUTERS) - Italian police said on Friday they had arrested a suspected Al-Qaeda militant accused of participating in a 2009 bombing in Pakistan that killed more than 100 people and providing shelter for another man suspected of planning a suicide attack in Italy.

The Pakistani man was arrested late on Thursday at Rome's Fiumicino airport, police on the island of Sardinia said in a statement.

They said the arrest was linked to a broader anti-terrorism operation in Italy in April, in which 10 people were detained and a further eight sought for arrest on suspicion of belonging to an armed group that had plotted attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Vatican.

The man arrested on Thursday was among the eight people, mainly Pakistanis and some Afghans, who were still being sought, police said.

They accuse the man, who was arrested after arriving on a flight from Islamabad, of having sheltered a suspected would-be suicide bomber in Rome and later in the Sardinian town of Olbia.

Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said the government was increasing its level of alert for possible attacks and was extending police surveillance of potential targets.

Police released video of a man in a checked shirt being marched through the airport, and further footage of a bearded man being escorted out of a house into a police car.

The suspect is accused of having helped to organise a car bomb attack that killed more than 100 people in Peshawar, Pakistan in 2009.

European countries had been on heightened alert for possible plots before Friday's killings, following deadly attacks this year including on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and the Bardo museum in the Tunisian capital Tunis.

Last month, Italian police arrested a Moroccan man, who had reached Italy on a migrant boat, on suspicion of involvement on the Bardo attack. That arrest fuelled concerns that militants could hide among the thousands of refugees that cross the Mediterranean to Italy from North Africa.

A gunman disguised as a tourist opened fire at a Tunisian hotel on Friday, killing 28 people, including British, German and Belgian tourists, as they lounged at the beach and pool in a popular resort town.