(By Paul Virgo).
(ANSA) - Rome, March 22 - Italy increased its already intense security measures after 34 people were killed in terrorist attacks in Brussels on Tuesday.
Three Italian nationals were among over 200 injured in the attacks at Maelbeek metro station near European Union headquarters and Brussels' Zaventem airport. They subsequently named as Chiara Burla, a 24-year-old Florence resident; Marco Semenzato, an architect from Veneto who had lived in Belgium for some time, and a Michele Venetico, a young Brussels airport employee who is the child of Sicilian migrants.
They were all allowed to leave hospital after receiving treatment. The authorities said at least 20 people were killed in the metro attack. Two of the Brussels airport attackers blew themselves up and the third is a fugitive, Belgian federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leuw told a press conference Tuesday. The man was caught on surveillance cameras wearing a light-coloured jacket and hat while his two companions were all dressed in black.
The Islamic State (ISIS) group, which was behind Novembers terrorist attacks in Paris, has claimed responsibility for the attacks, several sources said. A "secret cell" carried out the Brussels terror attacks that killed 34, the ISIS network Amaq News said in claiming responsibility for the attacks Tuesday. "What awaits you will be even harsher and more bitter," it said. ISIS's claim of responsibility is "information still to be verified", Belgium's federal prosecutor said on TV.
But prosecutors was also quoted as saying that a bomb containing nails, chemical products and an ISIS flag were found in searches in the Schaerbeek area of Brussels.
Rail traffic between Germany and Belgium was interrupted after the attacks, and the border between Belgium and France was shut down. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced the deployment of a further 1,600 police officers throughout France in response to the Brussels attacks. The foreign ministry urged Italians in Brussels to "avoid going anywhere at the moment" and said its crisis unit is "active". Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said that Italy's level of alert remains at two on a scale of three, but added that security around potential targets has been beefed up. "We maintain alert level two, the one below the level when an attack is taking place," Alfano told a news conference after a meeting of security officials. "I have also authorised measures to reinforce the security of sensitive targets and there will be other expulsions of subjects who have not respected the rules of our country".
Alfano said that an Iraqi national known to the French and Belgian authorities after making contact with terrorists was arrested in Naples on Tuesday. He said that no country could consider itself "zero risk" for terrorism, but added that "up to now our prevention system has worked well". The EU must set up "an integrated control system" for all member States, Alfano said after a meeting of the national public-order and security committee. Alitalia cancelled all Tuesday flights in and out of Brussels and more flights will be scrapped on Wednesday. The Vatican said Pope Francis's Easter schedule will not be affected by the attacks.
Italian intelligence sources said that the risk of such attacks in Italy remains high although there are no signs of an imminent action. The intelligence sources said the deadly attacks in Belgium came as no surprise, given that intelligence analysts had indicated a high risk of fresh attacks in Europe in the wake of the November 13 Islamist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.
Belgium and France are both at high risk due to their high numbers of radicalized Muslim citizens or residents and the fact that they house EU institutions.
(By Paul Virgo).