U.S. officials were briefed today on last week's discovery of a hole in the wall of a utility tunnel near the U.S. Embassy in Rome. They believe it might be linked to a group of Moroccan men suspected of planning an attack on the embassy including the water system.
Police picked up eight Moroccans in a raid last week that also produced nine pounds of a cyanide-based compound, firecrackers and maps of Rome highlighting the U.S. Embassy and the capital's water supply. A ninth man turned himself in over the weekend in southern Reggio Calabria.
Italian news reports said the hole was in a tunnel running along Via Boncompagni, which is adjacent to the embassy. According to the reports, the hole was not there in mid-January, the last time authorized work was carried out. The tunnel contains electricity and telephone lines, U.S. officials said. Italian news had initially reported that the tunnel also contains gas lines, but Embassy officials said that was incorrect. The hole was discovered last Wednesday the day after most of the Moroccans were arrested.
In an initial appearance before a judge Sunday, the suspects denied being part of a terrorist group and said they didn't know how the compound got into their apartment. The suspects were ordered held on charges of subversive association.
Defense attorney Domenico Martelli said Monday that he would appeal the judge's order. He claimed the firecrackers were left over from a New Year's celebration.
Police refused to comment.