North Africa poses greatest terrorist threat: Italian minister


Rome : Al Qaeda linked terrorist groups based in North Africa pose the greatest threat to Italy and are infiltrating people smuggling gangs in the Mediterranean, according to the country’s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.

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The minister made the comments in an interview with Italian magazine A.

“We consider these terror cells the real threat because the region is much closer than say Afghanistan and because they are infiltrating illegal immigrant trafficking with the greatest of ease,” Frattini said.

He gave the interview during his recent visit to Mauritania and Egypt.

Frattini especially targeted groups operating in the Sahara desert linked to the Algeria-based Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

The group has been held responsible for a string of deadly suicide bombings and kidnappings of westerners.

AQIM was formerly known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), which was believed to have around 500 fighters. In October 2003, it offered its support to the Al Qaeda network.

“It has arrived in Italy and in Europe. In the past three to four years, we have repeatedly found evidence of its presence in Italy,” Frattini said.

He called for a united approach for defeating illegal immigration, calling it “terrorism’s new frontline”.

“We must move sooner rather than later. Italy and Europe have underestimated the threat or may not have understood it at all,” he said.