Italian police have launched an antiterrorist operation against a network they said was inspired by Al-Qaeda and had its operational base on the island of Sardinia.
According to a statement by the police, the group had "an abundant amount of weapons and numerous faithful willing to carry out acts of terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan before returning to Italy."
Chief Prosecutor Mauro Mura, speaking at a news conference in the Sardinian capital Cagliari, said the suspects may have been planning an attack on the Vatican in 2010 that was never carried out.
He said that wiretaps gave "signals of some preparation for a possible attack" at the Vatican.
On April 24, arrest orders were issued for 18 suspected members. Some of the suspects were arrested, including the network’s spiritual leader, but others are believed to have left Italy, authorities said.
Two of the suspected men are believed to have been part of a group that protected Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden during his time in hiding.
According to police, some of the men are suspected of being behind an October 2009 car bomb explosion at a market in Peshawar, which left more than 100 dead, many of them women and children.