Sunday, July 31, 2005

Terror supect captured in Italy traces may have East African (Somali) ties

Set out here:
It has been possible to identify a dense network of people belonging to the Eritrean and Ethiopian communities in Italy who are believed to have helped the fugitive cover his tracks,” Giuseppe Pisanu, Italy's interior minister, told parliament on Saturday, referring to Mr Hussain.

Eritrea and part of Somalia are former Italian colonies that were brought together in a brief-lived east African federation with Ethiopia by Benito Mussolini, the Italian dictator, when his armies occupied the country in 1936. According to official data, 5,700 Eritreans, 4,600 Ethiopians and 4,900 Somalis were living in Italy in 2003.

Mr Pisanu said Italian investigators were probing Mr Hussain's east African contacts in Milan and Brescia. “He came into contact with people originating from the Horn of Africa who are resident in the provinces of Milan and Brescia, the city where the Ethiopian father of Hussain's fiancĂ©e lives,” Mr Pisanu said.

Mr Hussain was initially identified last Friday as a Somali-born naturalised Briton but Italian authorities now suspect that documents purporting to show his Somali origins were forged. Mr Pisanu said Italy had been keeping the Horn of Africa under close watch because it believed al-Qaeda terrorists were using it as a base for operations.

“We are attentively following the evolution of the situation in the area where, in places where the state is absent, al-Qaeda has arrived, has taken root and is using various means to send out its followers into Europe and the rest of the world,” Mr Pisanu said.

Somalia is of particular concern because it has been mired in violence and lawlessness since 1991. An Italian naval vessel is patrolling waters off the Horn of Africa, where pirates last month hijacked a United Nations World Food Programme-chartered ship carrying food aid for survivors of last December's Indian Ocean tsunamis.

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