The Italian Justice Ministry has uncovered an illegal parallel police force that was fighting terrorism in the country, justice sources said Sunday.
Some 150 police officers and soldiers, including many senior officers, were working for the secret unit that was set up soon after the deadly terrorist attacks in the Spanish capital of Madrid in 2004.
Their duties included protecting the pope, among other things, the sources said.
Three suspects have already been arrested and 24 others are being investigated, Rome’s La Repubblica newspaper reported further on Sunday. Justice Minister Guiseppe Pisanu has suspended three agents.
The parallel police force operated like a kind of secret service under the name the Department for Strategic Anti-Terror Studies. It was financed by the state and obtained confidential information from «normal» police sources.
Two of those arrested are believed to belong to radical right-wing groups, the report said. They have been accused of arrogation of office and the unpermitted use of government information.
Investigators came across the illegal parallel unit last year when they were looking into the abduction and murder of Italian Fabrizio Quattrocchi in Iraq. (dpa)