Arrests have been made in Italy and Switzerland of 15 people alleged to be members of Anonymous.
Those arrested are aged between 15 and 28, with five under the age of 18, and have been accused of performing denial-of-service attacks on Italian websites belonging to the government and on both state and private broadcasters, reports arstechnica.com.
A 26-year-old Swiss-Italian called ‘Phre' was named as a senior member of the group and approved companies for the hackers to target.
Anonymous responded with a statement acknowledging the arrests but denied that the entire Italian network of Anonymous had been dismantled and the ‘leaders' of Italian Anonymous had been arrested.
It said: “Anonymous denies these media reports and reiterates that this is impossible: Anonymous is not being dismantled. Anonymous has no leaders, no structure. All Anonymous members operate at the same level. Those arrested are not ‘dangerous hackers' as the media calls them, but people like you. They have been arrested while peacefully protesting for their and your rights. Our protest will continue louder than ever.
“The Italian Anonymous has not fallen because of this cowardly attempt to dismantle them and announce consequences for their actions taken by the police to demonstrate that Anonymous is present and fights on, like it did in the past and will in the future, for the freedom of the internet. Italy Aonymous calls all citizens of the internet and the international Aonymous: We need you! Let them have it, stronger than ever.”
The Italian branch of Anonymous is suspected of bombarding government, business and media websites with denial-of-service attacks, with victims including the Italian senate, energy firm ENI, defence firm Finmeccanica and financial institution UniCredit.
Last month, arrests were made in Spain of more than 30 people, charged with the attacks on the websites of Sony PlayStation, banks, an electricity company and the governments of Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Iran, Chile, Colombia and New Zealand.
Pro-US hacker The Jester, commenting on Anonymous' ‘We are Legion, we do not forget, we do not forgive, expect us' motto, said: “15 more 'Anonymous' arrested (again). Legion didn't 'expect' that.”