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Italy ponders UK extradition bid

By Jacky Rowland
BBC correspondent in Rome

Osman Hussain
Osman Hussain had been staying with his brother

The arrest in Rome of a man suspected of involvement in the failed London bombings of 21 July has triggered wide-ranging security operations across Italy.

The suspect - initially referred to as Osman Hussain and subsequently named by Italian police as Hamdi Issac - was detained on the eastern outskirts of Rome on Friday.

He has been questioned by investigating magistrates and is currently being held in solitary confinement in Rome's Regina Coeli prison.

The Italian interior minister, Giuseppe Pisanu, said police were searching at least 15 addresses and questioning a number of people on the basis of information gathered during the interrogation.

"During the investigation, it has also been possible to identify a close-knit network of people belonging to the Eritrean and Ethiopian communities in Italy who were useful in providing cover for the fugitive," Mr Pisanu told a session of parliament held to debate tightening anti-terrorism measures.

Anxiety over details

The British authorities have asked for the extradition of Hamdi Issac, but his lawyer indicated that the suspect might fight extradition, saying that the process was at a "very delicate and initial phase."

Italian police are anxious to establish why Issac travelled to Rome.

They will want to glean as much information as possible on his movements and contacts in Italy before agreeing to an eventual extradition.

Searches have been conducted at various premises in Venice, Salerno and other cities across the country.

Fears of an attack in Italy have been mounting since the 7 July bombings on the public transport system in London, in which four bombers killed themselves and 52 other people.

Explicit threats

Security was at the centre of a speech that the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, made to members of his Forza Italia party on Thursday.

He said Italy was on its highest alert against the threat from terrorism. Explicit threats against the country have appeared on a number of extremist websites.

However, Mr Berlusconi rejected the theory that Italy was being targeted because of its presence in Iraq. Italy is a member of the US-led coalition in Iraq and currently has 3,000 troops stationed there. The government has indicated that it plans to start withdrawing those troops next year.

The Italian parliament is currently debating new anti-terrorism legislation. The new measures would allow for longer detention of suspects, saliva samples for DNA tests on suspects, and greater surveillance of internet and telephone traffic.

"We are following the situation in the Horn of Africa, where, in stateless territories, al-Qaeda arrived and settled, and from where it aims through various means to send its members to Europe and the rest of the world," Mr Pisanu told parliament.

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