updated 11/17/2005 10:13:38 AM ET 2005-11-17T15:13:38

Authorities have arrested three Algerians believed to have links to an Algerian militant group that has allied itself with Osama bin Laden, police said Thursday.

Two of the suspects were arrested in Brescia, northern Italy, and one in Naples, an official from the Carabinieri paramilitary police in Naples said.

The three, arrested on Tuesday night and Wednesday, are suspected of links with the Algeria-based Salafist Group for Call and Combat, said the official, who said his name could not be used under Carabinieri practice.

They were detained on suspicion of association with the aim of international terrorism — a charge introduced in Italy after the Sept. 11 attacks, the official said.

He declined to give further details ahead of a judge’s decision on whether to uphold the arrests, expected later Thursday.

The three were suspected of preparing a terrorist attack outside Italy, an Italian government official said. The official, who declined to be named because the investigation was ongoing, denied media reports that the three were believed to be preparing an attack on Italian territory.

Italy on raised alert
The news agencies ANSA and Apcom identified the three as Yamine Bouhrama, Khaled Serai and Mohamed Larbi. ANSA said Bouhrama and Serai had lived in Norway with false documents obtained in France.

The Salafist Group for Call and Combat is the most organized group among Algerian insurgents who have been battling the North African state since 1992.

Italy raised its security alert after the July 7 suicide bombings in London’s transit system, stepping up measures at airports, government buildings, embassies and monuments.

Italian authorities have arrested many suspects on the international terrorism charge since it was introduced.

Most suspects have been acquitted, or convicted on lesser charges such as assisting illegal immigration and dealing in false documents.

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