CHICAGO (AP) – A radical Egyptian cleric allegedly kidnapped from Italy by the CIA once provided the American spy agency with valuable information about Islamic militants in Albania, according to a published report.

The Chicago Tribune, citing the former second-ranking official of the Albanian intelligence service, reported in its Sunday editions that Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, was a valuable source of information in the mid-1990s to the CIA about the close-knit community of Islamic fundamentalists living in exile in Albania, a formerly communist country in the Balkans.

Astrit Nasufi, the former Albanian intelligence officer, told the newspaper that the imam had been considered a credible source of information.

Last month, an Italian judge ordered the arrests of 13 CIA officers on allegations they secretly transported the imam to Egypt from Italy as part of U.S. anti-terrorism efforts – a rare public admonition by a close American ally. The warrant said the cleric was sent to Egypt and tortured.

Italian officials have said they had no prior knowledge of the Feb. 17, 2003, kidnapping of the 39-year-old cleric from a Milan street.

According to the Italian prosecutor’s application for the 13 warrants for the CIA agents, when Abu Omar reached Cairo on a CIA-chartered aircraft, he was taken to Egypt’s interior minister, the newspaper reported.

The document said that if the imam agreed to provide information to Egypt’s intelligence service, Abu Omar “would have been set free and accompanied back to Italy,” the Tribune reported.

The CIA has refused to comment on the case.

The newspaper said evidence gathered by Italian prosecutors “indicates that the abduction was a bold attempt to turn him (Omar) back into the informer he once was.”

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