Terrorism: Italian PM and Christian convert targets of Islamist death threats

Dubai, 17 June (AKI) - (By Hamza Boccolini) - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and a prominent Italian journalist who recently converted to Christianity, are the targets of new death threats posted on one of the most popular Islamist websites said to be close to al-Qaeda, on Tuesday.

The threats are aimed at Berlusconi and Magdi Allam, an Egyptian-born newspaper editor who converted from Islam to Roman Catholicism during the Vatican's Easter vigil in April 2008.

A writer and deputy editor of Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Allam was named the winner of the prestigious Oriana Fallaci journalism award on Monday night for writing about immigration, Muslim integration and terrorism.

Previous threats to the Italian premier were made in Arabic but Tuesday's internet message was for the first time posted completely in Italian with the title, 'Berlusconi and Magdi Allam'.

"They are two dead men walking.. just like Falcone .." an apparent reference to the anti-Mafia judge, Giovanni Falcone, who prosecuted the Sicilian Cosa Nostra. He and his wife were assassinated in a bombing in 1992.

"A coded message? Perhaps!" says the internet message.

Reading these words and comparing the language used by various Arab al-Qaeda cells seems more of a provocation than a coded message to a dormant cell.

The latest death threats, posted directly in Italian, are different to those that targeted Berlusconi in the past when they were posted only in Arabic.

However, messages of this kind recognised by experts and usually present in the speeches of al-Qaeda's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, have time and geographical references that notify his men when to move.

It is not the first time that Berlusconi and Magdi Allam have been targeted by threats. They have been among the preferred targets of the users of such sites.

Another message posted on Tuesday believed to be by the same author suggests an Italian Muslim resident may be using a pseudonym since he knows the community well.

In a reference to the participation of an Islamic association in Gay Pride the writer said: "These are so called 'moderate Muslims' that the good old Berlusconi likes".


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