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Italians Feel Targeted By Terrorists


Italians are increasingly nervous following the latest terror attacks in London, Turkey, and Egypt. Many say they do not want to travel abroad anymore, and, even at home, they do not feel safe. Fears that Italy could be targeted have increased, particularly in light of unspecified threats from Islamic groups against the Rome government, if it does not pull its troops out of Iraq.

Italians are concerned that the recent terror attacks are part of a long-term strategy to intimidate and spread fear in European countries. Many say that is already happening to a certain extent. Many feel it will take a long time to defeat terrorism.

At least one Italian died and three are missing in Saturday's triple bombing at the Egyptian resort of Sharm al-Sheikh. One Italian was killed in the London bombings and two Italians were killed in attacks last year in the Egyptian resort town of Taba.

Italians are starting to fear they are vulnerable. Italians have been killed in terror attacks abroad, but they are increasingly concerned that it will happen at home.

Milan Doctor Carolina Boyer says she thinks, when something has to happen, it will. It is unpredictable. It can happen anywhere, not only on public transport. She says nothing can be excluded.

General elections are scheduled for early next year and some Italians think terrorists could take advantage of that moment, as they did in Madrid. Last year, terrorist attacks on commuter trains killed 191 people, just days before Spain's parliamentary elections. Voters elected a socialist government, committed to bringing Spanish troops home.

Some Italians fear terrorists could launch a strike timed to undermine the Winter Olympics next February in Turin.

Italian authorities reacted swiftly to the bombings earlier this month in London and passed a new package of anti-terrorism measures that were backed by the opposition and the ruling party.

Francesco Rutelli is the leader of one of the parties in the opposition.

He says: "The threat of terrorism is very serious. It affects everyone, and it is indispensable to be united to combat it, prevent it, and strike back at this threat of terrorism."

When he first outlined the package of new anti-terror measures, Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu reassured citizens that he would do his utmost to ensure that freedom of citizens would not be limited.

But Italians are fast becoming accustomed to the idea that some of their previous freedom will be curbed.

Lower house speaker Pierferdinando Casini says: "We are living with a permanent enemy, an invisible enemy, which is different from that of traditional wars, but not less dangerous. And, so, all of us together, we will need to make some sacrifices, and get used to a little less freedom."

Some Italians feel the new measures do not go far enough. This woman says there is still no visible security in the subway or at bus stations.

"No, I do not feel safe. They go in with suspect bags, and no one checks them," she says as she walks into the Barberini subway station in central Rome.

Rome's subway network is not very extensive, but thousands use its two lines to travel to and from work every day. Italians fear for their cultural sites, as well.

Dr. Boyer says terrorists could strike at any of the thousands of monuments scattered across Italy, killing local residents and tourists.

She says: "I think those people strike when you least expect it, and in a place, which is possibly totally different from what we thought."

Earlier this month, the government announced that a phased withdrawal from Iraq will begin in September. But even Italians who believe Italy should never have sent soldiers to the country are saying the Rome authorities must not show in any way that they are giving in to terrorist demands.

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