28 March 2012
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A report in this week's "L'Espresso" magazine by journalists Fabrizio Gatti and Peter Gomez reveals the connivance of Italian military personnel from the carabinieri (Italy's paramilitary police force) and SISMI (the military intelligence agency) in the kidnapping of the Egyptian Osama Mostafa Hassan Nasr (aka Abu Omar) on 17 February 2003. Italian investigating magistrate Armando Spataro issued an international arrest warrant against 22 CIA agents on 23 December 2005 in relation to the kidnapping during (in Aviano airbase) and after (in Egypt) which Abu Omar, was reportedly tortured. In the event, the Italian justice minister Roberto Castelli refused to pass on the arrest warrant to the U.S. authorities or even to Interpol.
A carabinieri marshall, code-named Ludwig, is likely to face charges for his involvement in the kidnapping. He has reportedly told Italian investigators that he was present during the kidnapping, and played a key role in it, as he was the person who stopped Abu Omar while he was walking in the street and asked him for his documents, before a group of men came out of a van (some of whom were heard cursing in Italian) into which he was bundled after they had grabbed hold of him. Ludwig was a member of the carabinieri's Reparto Operazioni Speciali (ROS, Special Operations Unit) anti-terrorist section in Milan, and was asked to take part in the operation by a CIA agent based in Milan, Robert Seldon Lady, at a party. Lady had cooperated with the Milan ROS and Digos (its police force equivalent) in antiterrorist operations against Al Qaida, and left Italy shortly before an arrest warrant was issued against him. A number of officers from the intelligence and antiterrorist services were reportly at the party.
He went to the rendezvous in a motorbike, was picked up and driven to via Guerzoni, where the kidnapping took place. After the operation, he threw Abu Omar's passport and the mobile phone Lady had given him into the car and left. More Italians are reported to be likely to come under investigation (it is unclear whether they are carabinieri, intelligence agents or privately hired agents).
The outgoing Berlusconi government has repeatedly denied any knowledge or involvement by Italian security or intelligence services in the operation, dismissing the latter as "not even conceivable", as did the head of Italy's military intelligence services, Nicolò Pollari, when asked by the European Parliament commission that is investigating secret CIA operations in Europe. It reiterated its denial after the story broke, saying that it had "nothing to add".
The article reports that two days after it took place, the kidnapping was reported to the Milan Digos (special operations direction of the police force), and telephone companies were subsequently contacted to provide their records of telephone calls for the day in question. However, these didn't arrive until October, and they were for the wrong date, 17 March rather than 17 February.
"Abu Omar: la verità. Gli italiani con la CIA", F. Gatti & P. Gomez, L'Espresso, 11.5.2006 and Repubblica, 11.5.2006.
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