The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

Italian coastguard prepares to arm itself to defend against Daesh threat

Italy’s coastguard announced Friday that it would institute a policy allowing for 11,000 of its members to carry weapons following increased risk from jihadists targeting the peninsula, Al-Arabiya reported Friday.

The Islamic State group, which already has an affiliate elsewhere in North Africa,  Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, has recently made an apparent foray into Libya, where its members recorded their gruesome deed after promising to attack both Mediterranean shipping and the European mainland, beginning with Italy.

“Today we are south of Rome”, spoke one of the militants appearing in a video showing 21 Christians before their execution. “We will conquer Rome with Allah’s permission.”

The potential risk of such attacks prompted the Italian coastguard’s General Command to request from the Transport Ministry a status similar to the police force, automatically allowing it to carry firearms.

Italy’s fears are centered around a growing  immigration problem originating in Africa. Migrant workers and refugees, smuggled by traffickers aboard ships, have periled the dangerous journey from country’s such as Libya to the nearest Italian ports. Some traffickers, emboldened by Italy’s relatively weak security measures, have even taken to armed confrontation.

As more and more migrants seek asylum in Europe, both these confrontations and the death toll of refuge seekers is likely to rise.

Earlier this month some 300 people were killed after  succumbing to harsh sea and weather conditions. A similar number of people suffered the same fate in 2013 after their ship sunk off the Sicilian coast.

Meanwhile, the background of those aboard that has sparked anxieties. In recent years Syrians, Iraqis and sub-Saharan Africans have embarked on the dangerous voyage, prompting fears that radical Islamists will hide among them displaced masses in an effort to infiltrate Italy and other European countries.

As a first line of defense, Italy’s Federation of ship-owners demanded from the government to order the navy to carry out maritime patrols in order to  protect boats in the international waters between Italy and North Africa.

“Our fisherman are afraid of being attacked by terrorists, they cannot be allowed to live with the nightmare of not coming home,” said the federation chairman, Carmelo Micalizzi.

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