Italian police have arrested three asylum seekers after pictures of potential terror targets, including London, were discovered on mobile phones.
Afghan Hakim Nasiri, 23, was detained in a home for asylum seekers in Bari, on suspicion of subversive association with the goal of international terrorism.
Fellow Afghan Gulistan Ahmadzai, 29, and Pakistani Zulfiqar Amjad, 24, were held in Milan on suspicion of aiding illegal immigration.
Arrest warrants have been issued for two other suspects, both Afghans, who are accused of international terrorism and are believed to have returned to their native country.
A warrant said a militant cell had been established in Puglia, southeastern Italy, “to carry out violent attacks with the purpose of international terrorism, in Italy and abroad”.
Prosecutor Roberto Rossi, speaking in Bari, said images had been found of sensitive sites including of the city’s airport, port, and a shopping centre.
The phones were seized from four of the suspects after they were briefly detained in December for filming in a mall.
Among the sensitive sites in London were reportedly a footbridge in Canary Wharf, the Sunborn Yacht hotel in Royal Victoria Dock, the Premier Inn at International Square and the Ibis hotel near the Excel Centre.
As well as images of the British capital, there were pictures of Paris and Rome, and of Italian and Afghan weapons and military vehicles.
One of the suspects had been pictured posing with an MS16 semi-automatic rifle, which Mr Rossi said was “not an easy weapon to find on the market”.
There were also Taliban propaganda videos and “a series of chants traditionally sung in preparation for martyrdom”.
Links were found to websites “only accessible to those with connections to the international jihadist network”.
Mr Rossi added that the suspects had paid cash for some expensive trips around Europe.
The prosecutor said: “Just because someone who is Pakistani or Afghan takes pictures does not mean they are dishonest.”
But he claimed that because the images had been captured “where tourists in general don’t take pictures … taken together, they assume an extremely strong meaning”.
Officers were unable to get information from one of the mobiles – a locked iPhone.