Fear in Italy

Osman Hussain, a Somali man believed to be one of the four suspects in the July 21 bombing attempts in London was arrested July 29 in Rome after police traced his cell phone calls across Europe after the attacks. The ANSA news agency said he was arrested at the apartment of his brother, who also was taken into custody. (AP, July 29) In custody, he allegedly told police that the second London bomb attack wasn’t botched—it was merely “a demonstration” for a real attack to be carried out in another European capital. “We wanted to stage an attack, but only as a demonstration,” several newspapers quoted Osman as telling interrogators. Il Messaggero newspaper quoted the police as saying that Osman could have been in Rome to set up a terrorist attack there. (Electric New Paper, Aug. 1) Six more people were arrested in two police raids south of London July 31. (SA News24, July 31)

The Rome arrests came after hundreds of police swept into Islamic communities across Italy, raiding dozens of homes. Police and Carabinieri officers backed by Italy’s special anti-terrorism unit, the DIGOS, searched homes and buildings in Turin, Florence, Bologna, Rome, Naples and other cities. Hundreds of people underwent identity checks, and documents and computer equipment were seized for analysis. Searches also took place in North African communities in Siracusa and Ragusa on Sicily’s east coast. (Qatar Peninsula, July 14)

Italy’s Senate overwhelmingly approved a package of tougher anti-terror measures July 29. The new package includes measures that allow authorities to hold terror suspects longer without charges and retain telephone records. It now will go before parliament’s lower chamber for approval. One measure also doubles the penalty to up to two years in prison and a €2,000 fine for anyone covering their face in public — whether they’re wearing a burqa or a helmet. (CNN, July 29)

Immediately after the second round of London attacks, Italy’s lower house of parliament voted to keep troops in Iraq at least until the end of the year, approving the latest in a series of financing packages for the peacekeeping mission. Italy has some 3,000 troops in Iraq, the fourth largest foreign contingent there after the United States, Britain and South Korea. Italy is due to start a phased pullout of its forces in September, bringing some 300 troops back home, and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has vowed not to hasten the withdrawal despite terror threats. (Reuters, July 22)

See our last post on the London investigation, the global paranoia in the bombings’ aftermath, Italy’s current political crisis, and its exploitation by the neo-fascist right.

See also WW4 REPORT #31