Genoa braces for G8 summit
LONDON, England (CNN) -- Italian security forces are on heightened alert after a bomb attack in Genoa, where the world's top leaders are to gather for the latest G8 meeting of industrialised nations.
The Italian government had already put in place a widespread security system, including at least 15,000 policeman, army, navy servicemen at a cost of up to $110 million.
But a parcel bomb sent to the Carabinieri station in the Fruttuoso area of Genoa and a defused time bomb just days before the summit opened acted as a further warning to security forces.
Police will be fully equipped with riot gear and armed with live and rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannon and batons during the summit this weekend. Army and navy personnel will also be on call, as will snipers, bomb disposal units and armoured vehicles.
The Italian authorities' security measures also include the positioning of surface-to-air missiles at Genoa's Christopher Columbus airport. Dubbed the SPADA, the land-based system consists of missiles capable of a range of 15 kilometres (9.3 miles).
The ministry said the decision to install the missiles is not excessive.
"There's no excessive precaution," military spokesman Colonel Alberto Battaglini told Reuters. "The measure, which was planned by the previous government, may seem open to criticism, but in reality it is merely to act as a deterrent against any aerial incursion during the summit."
The choice of Genoa for the summit is regarded as a security nightmare. It is a port, with access from the sea, and has a backdrop of hills. Its central streets are narrow and winding, making hit-and-run violence of the type seen at June's EU summit at Gothenburg difficult to contain.
Italy's Defence Minister, Antonio Martino, told CNN: "Genoa is not the best place to organise such a meeting because it is very hard to defend key sites and the concern of the government is that some violent elements may join the protesters and cause problems."
The official G8 Summit Web site said it was not so much violence by the demonstrators that they feared most, but "the possibility of a terrorist attack."
The head of Russia's Federal Bodyguard Service has warned of a plot by terrorist Osama bin Laden to assassinate George W. Bush at the summit and the U.S. President may be staying at U.S. Camp Darby military base in Livorno or offshore on the American aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise to avoid any terrorist risk.
The other leaders of the world's most industrialised nations -- the U.S., Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, plus Russia -- are also staying offshore on a luxury cruise liner, the "European Vision, " chartered by the Italian government at a reported cost of $2.89 million.
Metal detectors will be positioned at the end of the gangplank, while sniffer dogs and uniformed and plain clothes policemen will stand guard.
Two security zones have been designated. The top security "red zone" includes the city centre, the summit venue, the 13th-Century Ducal Palace, and the waterfront where hotels and cruise ships hosting 1,500 delegates and 5,000 journalists will be located.
Shopkeepers and bar owners have installed steel shutters while workmen have put up 12-foot (4 metre) high metal fences at key entry points to the "red zone."
Hospitals in Genoa and neighbouring towns and cities have been put on alert.
The "yellow zone," which is much larger than the red zone, will act as a buffer zone. Access is less tight and demonstrations will be allowed to take place here, but police will be able to seal off the area quickly if necessary.
Factories deemed strategically sensitive will receive special protection.
The Old Port and the city centre will be cordoned off, litter bins removed, markets closed, manhole covers welded and sewers searched.
Coast guard divers will search underwater caves while satellite data will help intercept any unwelcome vessels.
Naval boats will patrol access to the port while fighter jets will monitor the skies.
The airport, the two main rail stations, an elevated railway and all motorways into the city will be shut. There is even a move to introduce checks at the border with France -- scrapped by the 1995 EU Schengen Treaty. Germany was tightening its border controls.
It is an elaborate defence against a sophisticated protest network including anti-globalisation activists as well as environmentalists, debt cancellation campaigners and human rights demonstrators.
About 120,000 protesters from 800 groups are expected to descend on Genoa, mainly under the umbrella of the Genoa Social Forum.
It has condemned violence and posted warnings on its Web site that protesters should not carry "any object that can be considered an offensive weapon (i.e. Swiss Army Knives.)
Interior Minister Claudio Scajola met with the group in the run-up to the summit and warned that the government would use "maximum severity" with those having "violent intentions."
But there was concern that groups determined to carry out violent actions were outside the Global Social Forum's umbrella.
An Italian group calling itself "Tute Bianche" (White Overalls) has said it intends to incite violent demonstrations.
An English group, Globalise Resistance, has hired a special train dubbed by authorities as the "Anarchy Express," which will have "a very few" anarchists on it, spokesman Guy Taylor said.
Others will be trade unionists, activists, NGO officials and peaceful protesters.
"There were 25,000 demonstrators in Gothenburg but only 600 were involved in trouble," he said.
"The focus in Genoa will be on Third World debt. On Saturday there is a mass demonstration on the issue. The G8 nations pull the strings of the World Bank and the IMF."
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