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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 July 2005, 19:32 GMT 20:32 UK
Italian anti-terror law enacted
Police car at Milan's central station
It is feared Italy may be the next European country to be hit
The lower house of the Italian parliament has approved new measures to combat the threat of terrorist attack, which means they have become law.

The bill includes surveillance of the internet and phone networks and making it easier to detain suspects.

Those who hide their features from the public - including through wearing the Islamic burqa - also face punishment.

A number of Western countries have introduced extra measures after the London bombs this month.

The BBC's Jacky Rowland notes that explicit threats against Italy have appeared on a number of extremist websites.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has rejected the theory that Italy is being targeted due to its presence in Iraq, where it has 3,000 troops.

The government has indicated that it plans to start withdrawing those troops next year.

'Very satisfied'

Italy's upper house backed the bill on Friday.

The package of extra measures approved overwhelmingly by parliament includes:

  • doubling to 24 hours the time suspects can be kept in custody without charge

  • interrogating suspects without lawyers present

  • strengthening of measures to prevent terrorists from financing their operations

  • increasing penalties for carrying false documents

  • compiling lists of mobile phone users to help police investigating suspected terrorist crime

    Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu after his speech in parliament
    The terrorist threat with Islamic origins has a world-wide dimension, it could materialise everywhere and no corner of the planet is immune
    Giuseppe Pisanu
    Italian Interior Minister

  • up to two years in prison and a 2,000 euro (1,379 or $2,424) fine for anyone who purposely hides their features by covering their faces in public.

Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu said after the vote that he was "very satisfied" with the overwhelming approval of the house.

There are growing fears that Italy could be the next target in Europe.

"The terrorist threat with Islamic origins has a world-wide dimension, it could materialise everywhere and no corner of the planet is immune," Mr Pisanu said.

The minister has said the Italian government has received no specific information of a strike.

However, about 13,000 sites around the country are being guarded against possible terrorist attack, including public buildings, embassies, ports, railway stations and the Vatican.


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