Project will focus on European imams

EU security officials back a plan to profile mosques for clerics who may incite terror.

Published May 13, 2007

VENICE, Italy - Security officials from Europe's largest countries backed a plan Saturday to profile mosques and identify radical Islamic clerics who raise the threat of homegrown terrorism.

The project will focus on the roles of imams, their training, their ability to speak in the local language and their sources of funding, EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini told a news conference after a meeting on terrorism.

Italian Interior Minister Guiliano Amato said Europe had extensive experience with the "misuse of mosques, which instead of being places of worship are used for other ends."

The transit attacks in Madrid and London - along with several thwarted plots - have raised concerns across Europe about the susceptibility of disaffected young Muslims.

British police have said the bombers in the July 2005 London suicide attacks listened to the sermons of Abu Hamza al-Masri, a radical cleric who was sentenced last year to seven years in prison for inciting followers to kill non-Muslims.

Adel Smith, a Muslim activist in Italy, said mosques in Italy are already extensively monitored.

"I think this is nonsense, I think mosques have been well-monitored for some years, " he said. "It is a form of religious discrimination."

AIRLINE DATA: Pieces of information gathered about airline passengers arriving in the United States can be crucial to preventing terror attacks, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said in Venice on Saturday as he pushed for a deal with European countries on sharing data. European governments are trying to ensure the deal will not violate their strict privacy laws, a legacy of the continent's history with authoritarian regimes. Chertoff is meeting security officials from Europe's six largest nations.