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Travel Warning Issued to U.S. Citizens Planning to Travel to Italy

Aired March 27, 2002 - 12:37   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: I want to go to Rome, Italy.

Alessio Vinci joins us there by telephone.

Apparently, there has been a warning sent out to Americans either living or traveling in Rome, Italy, and elsewhere.

Alessio, what do you have for us?

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hello, Bill.

The United States embassy here in Rome has issued a public announcement, basically warning its citizens, U.S. citizens, that they could be a targets by extremist groups of a terrorist attack in four Italian cities over this Easter Sunday, that is this coming March 31st.

The statement that was issued, the public statement issued by the U.S. Embassy basically says that the U.S. government continues to receive credible reports, as quoted here, that extremists are planning additional terrorist actions against U.S. interests, and they are listing the four cities as being Venice, Florence, Milan, and Verona. The U.S. government, the public announcement continues saying, has learned that those possible threats exist against U.S. citizens and also against targets where Americans may generally find themselves, namely restaurants, and clubs and places of worship, schools or outdoor recreation events.

And the statement also continues by basically urging Americans in the four cities to increase their security awareness and avoid large crowds. The embassy did not specify which extremist group may be involved in the terrorist -- possible terrorist threat.

However, one embassy spokesman whom I've just spoken with told me that the threats are especially credible -- Bill.

HEMMER: Alessio, some suspected terrorists were picked up in Italy, unhatching plans in a plot possibly to hit certain U.S. installations there. Is there any connection with what we heard several weeks ago and the threat that came out?

VINCI: It is definitely too soon to say. Bill. Those eight Moroccan nationals arrested were believed to be planning an attack against the U.S. embassy, in Rome. We understand that the threats that the embassy says are very credible, would be in four different cities, and not here in Rome. It is very difficult to make a connection between the terrorist groups arrested several weeks ago and this particular threat. It is certainly -- the only connection we can make is perhaps they may be coming from the same area, which is sort of extremist militants, but it's way too early to make a direct connection here between the two events.

HEMMER: Let me try something else here, security throughout Italy, especially the holy week, where so many western tourists flock to the country there, how will it change given this Easter event Sunday?

VINCI: Since September 11th, the security awareness and the security on the streets here in Rome will be dramatically increased, not just for this Easter holy week, but I also can tell you, having been near The Vatican area just earlier today, there is a lot of police around. There is a lot of security, a lot of plain-clothed policemen who are just milling around, trying to make sure that everybody who goes to that square in that area is secure, and nevertheless, I can tell you that the Italian authorities, for all we know, have been exercising extreme caution and extreme attention in trying to make sure that there is no real threat against, not just American citizens coming here, but also the other hundreds and thousands of people that this week are coming here to Rome and the Vatican to participate in the holy week, .

HEMMER: Just to follow up Alessio, I have to get to a story breaking in the Middle East here, but quickly, how many tourists are in the streets of Italy? There had been reports that many Americans especially were staying away?

VINCI: I asked the question to the U.S. embassy just a few moments ago, and they say they do not have a correct figure, but certainly tens and thousands of tourists and students and other people are believed to be in Italy at this time during the special unification period.

HEMMER: Alessio, thank you very much. And, Alessio Vinci there, by telephone in Rome, Italy,

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