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Qaeda-linked group gives Italy 15 days to leave Iraq
Updated: 2004-08-02 08:45

A militant group claiming links to al Qaeda has given Italy a 15-day deadline to withdraw its troops from Iraq or face attacks, in a statement sent to the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper Sunday.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is shown reviewing Italian troops in southern Iraq, April 10. [Reuters]
"We are mobilizing our cells everywhere in Rome and other Italian cities and we give (Italian Prime Minister Silvio) Berlusconi 15 days to withdraw from Iraq, said the statement signed by Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades -- al Qaeda Organization.

"After that we will not be responsible for any loss of lives," said the statement, made available to Reuters ahead of publication. Its authenticity could not be immediately verified.

"We had already sent you an earlier message asking you to withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible but have not seen anything yet ... and this is why the language of blood is on its way to you," the Arabic-language statement, which was addressed to Berlusconi's government and dated July 31, added.

The group has previously issued threats against European countries, saying it would start with Italy, for not responding to a three-month "truce" issued to European states by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden which expired in July.

U.S. officials have said Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades links with al Qaeda are unclear.

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