Italian authorities, fearing a possible terrorist attack on the &to=http://english.pravda.ru/main/2002/02/14/26404.html' target=_blank>Winter Olympics in Turin, are conducting surveillance on at least 700 people, USA Today reported Tuesday. Italian officials denied the figure.
In a front-page story, USA Today quoted Luigi Renella, the Italian police's liaison with the U.S. government, as saying the surveillance operation reflected concerns that Turin would be a logical target for al-Qaida or other terrorist groups.
Asked to comment on the report, the Italian Interior Ministry in Rome referred reporters to an interview Renella subsequently gave to the ANSA news agency in which he said he "categorically denied" the 700 figure attributed to him by USA Today.
"I cannot confirm the number _ it could be more or less than that," ANSA quoted Renella as saying. "In our investigative and intelligence activities, there are obviously numerous targets," but trying to quantify them is not only impossible but senseless, he said.
Calls from The Associated Press to Renella at the Italian Embassy in Washington were not immediately returned.
U.S. Justice Department is acting behind the scenes to have Assange extradicted from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, and prosecuted in the U.S.