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Last Updated: Monday, 11 December 2006, 12:32 GMT
Italy police seek 'Satan squad'
By Mark Duff
BBC News, Milan

Pietro Guerrieri (centre), sentenced to 16 years in jail
The Beasts of Satan case caused widespread shock in Italy
Italian police want to set up a special unit to tackle the growth of new religious sects, particularly a violent new breed of home-grown Satanists.

The new police squad would include psychologists, as well as a priest who is an expert on the occult.

It would co-ordinate - nationwide - investigations into potentially dangerous religious movements.

The move follows a spate of high profile, gruesome murders blamed on a new generation of Satanists.

They indulge in a lethal blend of black magic, hard drugs, sex and heavy metal.

In the most recent case a gang known as the "Beasts of Satan" bludgeoned, then buried alive, two of their own members - a young woman and her boyfriend - in woods outside Milan.

Experts say the number of Satanists in Italy is tiny - and the product as much of youthful alienation as of any more traditional religious conviction.

But more than a million Italians belong to other minority religions, and some experts are worried that the new police squad could target members of them as well - even though, despite their perhaps strange beliefs, they are entirely harmless.

The police need to concentrate on tackling Satanic criminality, says one of the country's leading experts on new religions, or they will end up threatening religious freedom as well as wasting scarce resources.


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