News24

Italy on guard for Tunisian terrorists

2011-02-09 21:35

Rome - Italy has stepped up surveillance of links between Tunisia and Europe over fears of possible "terrorist infiltration", Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said on Wednesday.

"The escape of criminals from Tunisian prisons worries us a lot because of the risk of terrorist infiltrations by Tunisians who want to come to Europe disguised as political refugees," Maroni said.

"To fight against this phenomenon, of which we have proof, we have increased surveillance of connections between Tunisia and Europe and we have contacted the new Tunisian authorities to discuss the best possible strategies," he added.

Some 11 000 Tunisian prisoners escaped during massive anti-government protests in Tunisia in January that ousted long-time president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Of that number, some 1 500 subsequently gave themselves up to authorities.

Maroni's remarks came as some 200 illegal immigrants arrived on several boats on the Italian island of Lampedusa over the past 24 hours, Italian authorities said.

Some reportedly claimed Tunisian nationality.

Fighting illegal immigration was a key campaign theme of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his Northern League allies that helped them win the 2008 legislative elections.