Panel: Italy must wake up to need to prevent radicalization

AP News
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Posted: Jan 05, 2017 10:55 AM

ROME (AP) — A government-appointed commission urged Italy on Thursday to develop strategies to prevent radicalization, saying that while the country so far has been spared the extremist attacks suffered elsewhere in Europe, current anti-terrorism measures are insufficient.

Premier Paolo Gentiloni told reporters after hearing the panel's recommendations that he agrees more must be done to check radicalization, which he says mainly manifests itself in Italy in prisons and on the internet.

Berlin Christmas market attacker Anis Amri is thought to have become radicalized while serving 3½ years in Italian prisons. The Tunisian was killed in a shootout with police near Milan Dec. 23.

"That we have a lower number of radicalized people or foreign fighters should in no way lead us to underestimate the phenomenon and the need to understand it," Gentiloni said.

Commission coordinator Lorenzo Vidino said because Italy doesn't yet have large second-or third-generation Muslim populations, radicalization hasn't appeared here "in the same intensity and numbers" as in countries such as France.

But the commission, which was appointed in September, warned that Italy should not consider itself immune.

For a variety of reasons, "our country so far has not been exposed to the wave of jihadist violence comparable to that suffered by France or by other European countries, and our anti-terrorism structures have so far been able to successfully manage the threat," the commission said in a summary of its findings.

But the panel warned that various factors could cause extremist violence to grow and "in the future, even our country will have to face some of the dynamics seen" in north-central Europe.

Italy has a robust anti-terrorism program, largely developed when the country faced domestic extremism during the 1970s and 1980s.

As new threats have surfaced across the continent, the country mostly has relied on that legacy and "not experimented with prevention as much as other European countries that had to deal with bigger radicalization problems," said Vidino, who directs a program on extremism at George Washington University in Washington.

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Frances D'Emilio is on twitter at www.twitter.com/fdemilio