Police hold suspects 'linked to Bin Laden'

War against terrorism: Arrests
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Police in Italy and Germany arrested three people on Wednesday suspected of links to Osama bin Laden's organisation, while the French authorities were seeking a fifth man also allegedly involved in the conspiracy.

Italy's Interior Minister, Claudio Scajola, said two Tunisians held in Milan belonged to a "subversive cell". "The cell worked to recruit men to send to training camps in Afghanistan," Mr Scajola said. Police in Munich confirmed they had arrested a man on an Italian warrant, but did not give further details. The Italian authorities described that detainee as a Libyan, identified as Lased Ben Henin, who they said had been connected to the Hamburg cell of hijackers who carried out the attacks in America and also to Mr bin Laden.

Their 50-page arrest warrant cites tapped telephone conversations between the suspect and people in Afghanistan in March and April this year, which allegedly included references to arms caches in Afghanistan.

Yesterday's arrests were part of an investigation that began in April with the arrest of five Tunisians, alleged members of the Milan cell of Mr bin Laden's network. The Italian authorities said the cell had a logistical role, providing accommodation, identities and jobs as well as actively recruiting new "soldiers" for training in Afghanistan. The men arrested in Milan yesterday face charges of forging documents, conspiring to traffic in arms, explosives and chemical agents.

The Milan prosecutor, Stefano Dambruoso, said his inquiry had produced evidence of co-operation among al-Qa'ida's cells in a number of European countries, including Germany, France, Spain and Belgium.