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French pair talked of terror attacks

ITALIAN anti-terrorism investigators said yesterday that two French citizens behind aezbars since last year on suspicion of smuggling migrants were al-Qaida propaganda point men in Europe and were heard talking in jail about a possible attack on a Paris airport.

But police stressed investigators found no concrete plan of attack.

"It's pretty clear from intercepted conversations that they talk explicitly about an attack in French territory," said prosecutor Roberto Rossi in Bari, where the pair have been in jail since last November.

Asked about news reports that Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris had been targeted by the pair, Rossi said: "Yes, there was a specific reference to the airport."

He added: "The French were obviously informed some time ago" about the airport reference.

Italian police said Bassam Ayachi, 62, and Raphael Frederic Gendron, 33, were served warrants in jail yesterday accusing them of criminal association for international terrorism.

"These two are top-level point men on the ideological level" for propaganda for al-Qaida in Europe, anti-terrorism police official Claudio Galzerano said.

There were media reports about other alleged plans involving unspecified targets in Britain. Quoting from excerpts of transcripts of intercepted conversations, they said the two spoke of a "need to strike at the English."

Ayachi was quoted as referring to a plane, saying: "You don't need me to tell you what it means to have a French plane" and saying in other references "we'll kill by striking."

Galzerano said investigations have indicated that the risk of such an attack by the two men was "practically nothing."

The initial concern over possible terrorist attacks was based on excerpts of telephone conversations, and "very fragmentary" phrases.


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