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  • Italy Takes on Terrorists
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    JULY 10, 2005 In the wake of terrorist attacks to commuter subways and one bus in London earlier this week, the Italian government is stepping up its security. Terrorist groups have posted online messages threatening that Italy will be the next target because of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's staunch support of U.S. efforts in Iraq. Here is what you need to know about the motherland in this time of crisis:

    The people want out of Iraq. "Now an attack in our house is more likely than ever," wrote the daily publication Il Messaggero after the London bombings. The majority of Italians already were against having troops in Iraq in support of the U.S. efforts. As the tension in the Middle East rises, the Italians are becoming more and more outspoken about bringing their soldiers home. The recent bombings in Madrid and now London have made their argument even stronger.

    Berlusconi knows he's under attack, too. Berlusconi, who in the coming months will be facing re-election, was visibly shaken by the London bombings. During a press conference led by British Prime Minister Tony Blair from the G8 Summit in Scotland, Berlusconi's facial expression spoke of his fear and worry. Not surprisingly, on Friday, he repeated his previously stated intention of pulling out some Italian troops in September. He added, however, that this would only be possible if Iraq "comes to a point where it can guarantee its own security." Either way, the pressure is on for Berlusconi to make some serious changes or suffer a loss in the election - and more devastating losses should a terrorist attack happen on his soil.

    The battle is on. On Saturday, Italian police said they had arrested 142 people in a two-day anti-terrorism sweep near Milan meant to quell fears. According to reports, Milan is a highly sensitive site and a focus of Islamic terrorists. Most of the arrests came on drug, petty theft or immigration-related charges, according to BBC News. However, some explosives were found at the home of one convicted criminal. Of those arrested, 83 were non-European Union residents and deportation has already been issued for 52 of them. The BBC also reported that part of Rome's Fiumicino airport was evacuated after a false alarm when a bag was left unattended.

    Regardless of whether it was a false alarm, Italians are happy to see that threats are being taken seriously and the government isn't being lulled into taking security for granted. Just because no attacks have happened in Italy yet doesn't mean that they won't. And the terrorists certainly haven't wasted a moment. They're still out to scare the world - and they're succeeding. For now, Italy - and the rest of us - must stay on guard. Unfortunately, this war is far from over.

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