The Italian Almanac

CIA headquarters

Italian News - June 25

An Italian judge has ordered the arrest of a group of CIA agents who investigators believe kidnapped a radical Egyptian imam from the streets of Milan and bundled him off to Cairo, where he said he was tortured.

The warrants name 13 American agents from a group of 19 men and women who authorities allege pursued and then snatched Hassan Osama Nasr, a radical cleric better known as Abu Omar, nearly 2 years ago. Officials, who announced Friday that warrants had been issued, said none of the agents are in Italy any longer and that no one was taken into custody.

The abduction of Abu Omar forced Italian authorities to abort an extensive case they were building against him. His arrest was imminent at the time, they said, and formal charges against him are pending.

As part of the investigation into the abduction, Italian law enforcement officials put together an extensive dossier on the team of men and women who spent several days tracking Abu Omar and who then intercepted him as he walked to Milan's Viale Jenner mosque on Feb. 17, 2003. The agents surrounded and subdued him, then shoved him into a minivan and sped away, witnesses have told investigators.

The Abu Omar case is an example of an "extraordinary rendition," a controversial practice employed by U.S. authorities against suspected terrorists with increasing frequency since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. U.S. counterterrorism agents seize and transport a suspect in one country to a third country without seeking court permission. Italy is one of three European countries, along with Sweden and Germany, that are examining alleged renditions on their soil. However, it is highly unusual for a country friendly to the United States to attempt to prosecute its secret agents.