Al-Qaida Attack on Bologna Basilica Reportedly Thwarted

Motive Is a Fresco Depicting Mohammed in Hell

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BOLOGNA, Italy, JUNE 24, 2002 ( An al-Qaida cell in Milan planned to attack Bologna´s Basilica of St. Petronius because one of its frescoes depicts Mohammed in hell being tortured by demons, Italian authorities reported. A special group of the Italian police said it thwarted the al-Qaida, which they said planned to attack the basilica on the grounds that its fresco insults the founder of Islam. The British Secret Services completed the operation when they arrested a link of the cell in Great Britain.

The offending fresco was the 1415 painting of Giovanni da Modena representing Mohammed in hell, according to the ROS special police group, which has been investigating members linked to the GIA Muslim terrorist group.

The fresco is exhibited in the Bolognini chapel and is inspired by the 28th canto of Dante´s «Divine Comedy.» The Basilica of St. Petronius is among the most significant works of Italy´s historic and artistic heritage. Its foundations were laid in 1390 to celebrate the city´s communal freedom.

The ROS report given to Milan´s public prosecutor refers to the interception of about a dozen people, of Moroccan and Tunisian origin, who supposedly were in touch with someone living in Milan who calls himself «Amsa the Libyan.»

According to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, the investigations are also of interest to the CIA, which first asked the Italian agents to capture Amsa, identified as an emissary of Osama bin Laden´s organization.

The Muslim community in Italy, through its president Adel Smith, assailed the credibility of the news about the basilica plot and said it is an attempt «to discredit Muslims living in this country and present them to public opinion as violent people, as terrorists.»

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