Italy ups Rome summit security after London attack

Pope 'pained', Gentiloni says 'close' to Britain

23 March, 19:33

    (By Denis Greenan).

    ROME - Italy on Thursday raised security for Saturday's EU summit in Rome marking the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome in light of Wednesday's terror attack that killed three and injured 40 in London.

    While Pope Francis said he was "pained" by the attack and Premier Paolo Gentiloni voiced Italy's "closeness" to Britain, Interior Minister Marco Minniti said security controls must be further stepped up in crowded areas.

    After chairing an extraordinary meeting of Italy's strategic anti-terror analysis committee (CASA), Minniti said: "We must further reinforce controls in the areas where people gather, as well as places which are noted for visitor influx," also for Saturday's EU summit celebrating the EU's founding charter, he said. The centre of the Italian capital is already set to be in lockdown amid fears that a EuroStop march may be infiltrated by extremists such as the black bloc who will try to wreak havoc.

    Minniti said on the London terror attack - by a Kent-born man of Pakistani origin living in Birmingham who killed two civilians and a policeman - that "the only way to combat the unpredictability is to control the territory". He stressed that "we are faced with a threat that is taking on, ever more, the character of unpredictability: the times of reaction to the threat are being ever more reduced".

    Minniti went on to say: "Nice, Berlin, London: we have a lowering of the predictability. They are attacks carried out with immediately available means" according to the "indication of (late Islamic State spokesperson Abu Muhammad) al-Adnani (al-Shami) who, not by chance, called for cars and knives." Minniti said "we must reflect on a strategy that is capable of meeting this threat: how to combine intelligence activity with the control of the territory". Therefore, he said, "faced with the very high unpredictability, we must return to an old issue, the relationship between intelligence and the control of the territory".

    Gentiloni, meanwhile, telephoned British Prime Minister Theresa May voicing the government's condolences for yesterday's terror attack in London, sources said. Two Italian women were hurt in the attack, one a Bolognese who was quickly discharged from hospital and the other a Roman who was hit by the fender of the attacker's car and lost consciousness for ten minutes or so. Controls at Italy's borders have already been stepped up ahead of Saturday's European Union summit in the Italian capital.

    Rome will be heavily guarded against the risk of violence from demonstrations, principally from the leftwing EuroStop Social Platform which police say is at risk of being infiltrated by violent militants.

    There will be stiff controls at airports, ports, rail stations, roads and motorways leading to the Italian capital.

    Some 50 coaches carrying the leftist Eurostop demonstrators will arrive in Rome for the summit, sources said Wednesday.

    The Eurostop demo, the most prone to violence in the view of Rome police, will be attended by an estimated 8,000 people.

    The total participants in all six marches - both pro- and anti-EU -to be staged in Rome will be an estimated 25,000.

    Officials said two security zones around key government buildings will be in place by Thursday for Saturday's event, which will be preceded by an audience with Pope Francis for EU leaders on Friday.

    Authorities have traced different itineraries for each march in a bid to keep them separate in terms of both geography and time.

    EU supporters include the European Federalist Movement and the EU-funded Europa Nostra (Our Europe) cultural heritage group.

    On the anti-EU front are the left-wing Eurostop Social Platform and the right-wing National Action Movement.

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