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Italy fears terrorist attack

By CNN's Rome Bureau Chief Alessio Vinci

Thousands of spots in Italy are potential targets, says Pisanu
Thousands of spots in Italy are potential targets, says Pisanu

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The Italian interior minister says the country has become a "priority target" for terrorists.
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ROME, Italy (CNN) -- More than 8,000 sites in Italy are at risk of being attacked by terrorists, according to the country's Interior Minister.

Giuseppe Pisanu told CNN he believed Italy was a priority target for Islamic extremist terrorists.

His comments come following the arrest by police at the weekend of three men in Milan suspected of belonging to a group involved in recruiting suicide attackers in Italy for strikes in Iraq and elsewhere.

Nineteen Italians -- 12 Carabinieri, five army soldiers and two civilians -- were killed in Nasiriya a fortnight ago following a truck bomb outside their compound in the Iraqi city.

Pisanu said these events confirmed Italy's vulnerability.

"The Milan events confirm the presence of Islamic extremists on Italian territory, even if the arrests prove we are able to face this threat," he said.

"From the beginning of the year we have arrested 71 presumed terrorists, and seven Islamic extremists have been expelled from this country."

In an hour long interview in his office in Rome, Pisanu said islamic extremists in Italy no longer play a simple supporting role for terrorist attacks in other parts of the world.

"They are above all groups that carry out logistical support activities, such as collecting funds through licit and illicit means, falsifying travel and residency documents, but they also recruit mujaheddins in Italy to be sent to areas at war.

"This however does not exclude that people who until today dedicated themselves to logistical tasks cannot activate themselves and hit on Italian soil."

Pisanu said potential targets in Italy included U.S. and Israeli interests, airports, train and subway stations and sites visited by tourists but said he did not know of any specific attack planned on Italy during the festive season.

The threat of a terrorist attack is so high that a few days ago security officials came very close to shutting down the entire subway system in Rome and Milan -- a measure the interior minister revoked at the last minute, warning against unnecessary alarmism.

Pisanu has requested an extra 700 million euros a year on top of money already allocated to fight terrorism. He wants the additional funding used to monitor Italy's borders with other countries.

But in the streets of Rome the new climate is affecting many Italians' sense of security.

Giorgio, a former print shop owner coming out of the subway in central Rome, said: "You must look around yourself ... you are never sure if you come back safe at home, bomb could happen, they can put a bomb anywhere, anyplace."

Just outside the Coliseum, Tommaso, who works as a tour guide, told me recent attacks against Italians and bombings in Istanbul had changed his perspective on the war on terrorism.

"It changed in the way that I feel war closer now. Because before we were used to watch the TV like a movie, now you feel that something can happen tomorrow, today, you don't know."

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