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Islamic group warns Italy over Iraq -Web statement
Updated: 2004-07-26 10:23

An Islamist group in a purported Internet statement on Monday issued a new threat to attack Italy if Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi does not withdraw troops from Iraq.

"This is a warning to the Italian government which has given itself to serving the criminal American crusade to follow the example of others and leave Iraq," said the statement signed by the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades.

"If not, we will speak in the language of blood and shake the earth everywhere in your depths," the statement, dated July 26, added.

"To the vile Berlusconi, if you don't hear this warning, we'll make you hear it in Rome... We give you only a few days, Berlusconi, before we make you see what will not please you."

Islamist militants have regularly threatened to target Italy as part of their war on the United States and its allies. But the warnings have increased this month.

The same site on Saturday carried a statement signed by another group claiming to be a branch of al Qaeda in Europe which warned Italy and Australia of "columns of rigged cars" if they did not pull troops out of Iraq.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said on Monday he would ignore the threats.

"We will not parlay and negotiate with terrorists and I believe the overwhelming majority of the Australian public will agree with us," said Howard, who sent 2,000 troops to the U.S.-led war on Iraq.

A statement posted on the Internet earlier this month in the name of the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades -- which claims links to al Qaeda -- has warned of a "bloodbath like September 11" if Berlusconi remained in power.

Berlusconi, a close U.S. ally, backed last year's invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein and Italy has around 2,700 troops in Iraq.

The Philippines withdrew troops from Iraq this month to save the life of a Filipino hostage. It joined Spain, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras which earlier quit what once was a 34-nation U.S.-led coalition.

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