Italy Under Constant Security Threat

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Italy’s defense minister is warning that criminal groups with potential links to terrorism are profiting from running migrant vessels across the Mediterranean to European shores and is calling on the US to keep focused on resurgent Islamic terrorism in the region.

10664839_sMario Mauro told a small group of reporters that Italy is using drones and submarines to counter the profitable trafficking of migrants from North Africa, which was potentially bankrolling terrorism.

European governments and public opinion see this as a problem of illegal immigration — this is not my vision,” Mauro said during a trip to Washington to see US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. “My thinking is that the situation is linked to the problem of international security and the security of the Mediterranean,” he said.

The traditional flow of migrants from Africa to Italy, usually on ramshackle boats that head for the Italian island of Lampedusa, has stepped up in recent years, initially boosted by an outpouring of migrants from Tunisia, and more recently from Syria. Migrants also make the arduous desert crossing from Sub-Saharan Africa through Libya, where they have often been jailed and tortured before being allowed to board boats.

iHLS – Israel Homeland Security

After hundreds of migrants drowned last year when their boats sank, the Italian Navy mounted regular patrols to pull people off unseaworthy, overcrowded vessels.

Mauro said the normal flow of boats from Libya is being augmented by sailings from Egypt organized by “criminal multinational organizations,” which had handled 25,000 paying passengers in the past year, the majority fleeing the war in Syria.

According to Defense News traffickers are using mother ships, he said, which would tow smaller and less seaworthy vessels to within about 200 kilometers of the Italian coast, at which point about 1,000 passengers would be loaded onto the smaller vessels and released.

In Libya, he added, it is hard to tell the difference between criminal and terrorist groups involved in trafficking.