terror group linked to al-Qaeda received orders from leaders in Afghanistan and Iran to destroy the 14th cathedral via "Amsa the Libyan', a man who was arrested in Britain three weeks ago for possession of false papers.
Italian police, it said, intercepted telephone calls between several Moroccans and Tunisians linked to Amsa, now suspected of being one of Osama bin Laden's chief terror operatives in Europe.
Officers with the Carabinieri paramilitaries first heard of the plan in February and began looking for Amsa, who at the time was living in Milan, but who fled to Holland and then Britain when he realised they were on his tail.
Others in the plot to destroy the cathedral have been linked to Algeria's Salafist "Group of Prayer and Combat", a splinter group of the GIA (Armed Islamic Groups) with suspected members in Britain, Italy and Holland.
In one of the taped telephone calls in February, Amsa's alleged associates openly discussed concrete plans for an attack on the cathedral.
When Amsa was finally located, he was monitored by police allegedly passing on orders to suspected terrorist cells in Britain, Holland, Belgium and Spain.