Italy tightens security in wake of terrorist attacks

Other News Materials 17 May 2012 18:22 (UTC +04:00)

Italy's government said Thursday it would provide armed police escorts for around 550 executives and functionaries of state-controlled companies, including a tax collecting agency which has been targeted in recent terrorist attacks, reported dpa

The plan includes the deployment of around 20,000 police officers to guard offices and other premises belonging to the tax collection agency Equitalia, the state-controlled industrial and armaments conglomerate, Finnmeccanica, several of its subsidiaries, and other as yet unspecified institutions.

"We need to maintain a high state of vigilance," Interior Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri said, presenting the plan in Rome.

She also said that some 4,250 soldiers would be deployed to protect some of the potential targets, but did not provide further details.

The government's measures come in the wake of a spate of attacks, including the shooting and injuring last week of Roberto Adinolfi, the chief of a state-controlled nuclear power company Ansaldo Nucleare, a Finmeccanica subsidiary in the north-western city of Genoa.

Responsibility for the attack has been claimed by a group calling itself the Federeazione Anarchica Informale (Informal Anarchic Federation - FAI), the same moniker used by those who have claimed responsibility for a series of parcel bombs attacks in Italy and in Germany over the past two years.

The delivery of letter bombs - found devoid of explosive fuses - to Equitalia's headquarters in Rome last week has raised fears of terrorism in Italy. The agency's office in Livorno was hit with two petrol bombs on Saturday.

No one was hurt in the incidents.

The attacks come amid growing tension in Italy over austerity measures, including tax hikes, introduced by Prime Minister Mario Monti's technocratic government.

Earlier Thursday, Monti expressed his solidarity with Equitalia and the Agenzia delle Entrate (state revenue agency) during a visit to the latter's headquarters in Rome.

Monti, addressing officials from the two agencies, condemned the violence and said politicians who criticize his government's economic policies should tone down their verbal attacks.

"One should be very careful when choosing words to describe the Agenzia delle Entrate, Equitalia and their employees," Monti said.

"Words are like stones," Monti said.

He was apparently referring to what government officials have slammed as sensationalist media reports linking a spate of suicides by business people to pressure reportedly placed on them by the likes of Equitalia. The government says that official records show no noticeable rise in the rate of suicides since 2009.

Paying one's taxes is "a contribution that a citizen makes for the common good," Monti said.

"It is important to teach at school that not paying one's taxes should not be considered smart."

Monti has argued that the austerity measures are required to placate market restlessness over Italy's public debt of over 2 trillion euros (2.6 trillion dollars), which is the highest in Europe and amounts to some 120 per cent of gross domestic product.

Critics, however, contend that increased taxes are making it difficult for small and medium businesses, which represent the backbone of the economy, to cope at a time when the country needs to tackle economic recession.