Italians Aghast As Notorious Mafia Killer Released

Giovanni Brusca was arrested in 1996 for detonating a bomb that killed five people – including anti-mafia judge Giovanni Falcone.



Italians were outraged Tuesday at the release from prison of a ruthless mafia boss who assassinated Italy’s most famous prosecutor and dissolved a boy’s body in acid, among other crimes.

Giovanni Brusca, 64, was released Monday from Rome’s Rebibbia prison after serving a 25-year sentence, during which he became a state’s witness.

He will now serve four years of probation.

“Brusca freed — the cruelest boss,” wrote La Repubblica daily.

Brusca was a key figure within the Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian mafia group.

He detonated the bomb that killed Giovanni Falcone, Italy’s legendary prosecuting magistrate who dedicated his career to overthrowing the mafia, in 1992.

Falcone’s wife and three bodyguards were also killed in the attack after their car drove over a section of highway outside Palermo packed with 400 kilos (882 pounds) of explosives, detonated by Brusca nearby.

The wife of one of the bodyguards killed, Tina Montinaro, told Repubblica she was “indignant” at Brusca’s release.

“The state is against us — after 29 years we still don’t know the truth about the massacre and Giovanni Brusca, the man who destroyed my family, is free,” Montinaro said.

Falcone’s sister, Maria, told the paper she was distressed by the news but “it’s the law, a law moreover wanted by my brother and that should be respected.”

– Dissolved in acid –
Brusca — who went by the nickname ‘the Pig’ and who was arrested in 1996 — was one of the most loyal operators of the head of Cosa Nostra, Salvatore “Toto” Riina, and as a collaborator admitted to carrying out hundreds of murders, Italian news media reported.

One of the most grisly was the killing of 12-year-old Giuseppe Di Matteo, the son of a mafia turncoat, who was kidnapped in 1993 in retaliation for his father collaborating with authorities.

After being held in a house for over two years in squalid conditions, the boy was strangled and his body thrown into acid in what police have called “one of the most heinous crimes in the history of the Cosa Nostra”.

Protest about Brusca’s release also came from both sides of Italy’s political divide. The leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, Enrico Letta, called it a “punch in the stomach that leaves one speechless,” while far-right leader Matteo Salvini called Brusca a “wild beast” who “cannot get out of prison.”

Meanwhile, Claudio Fava, the president of Sicily’s anti-mafia commission, doubted the value of Brusca’s information provided to authorities about the 1992 attack on Falcone.

“Certainly Brusca could have said much more than he did, he could have contributed much more to get to the truth of that period,” said Fava.

“Certainly now he won’t do it anymore.”

Italy: Girl Feared Dead After Refusing Arranged Marriage

People wearing a face mask walk in the courtyard of the of the Museum of Contemporary Art “Castello di Rivoli” near Turin on May 27, 2021. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)



Police in Italy are searching for the body of an 18-year-old girl suspected to have been killed by her Pakistani family after refusing an arranged Muslim marriage. 

The girl’s parents, an uncle and two cousins are under investigation for murder, lieutenant colonel Stefano Bove of the Carabinieri police said Saturday.

All “are supposed to have taken part in the crime”, he told reporters, while officers were combing through farmland to find the missing girl, Saman Abbas.

Bove said the Carabinieri were inspecting “wells, irrigation canals and greenhouses”.

Saman Abbas, who lived in the northern town of Novellara, last year rebelled against her family’s traditional plan to have her wedded to a cousin in their home country.

While still a minor, she turned to social services and in November was moved into a shelter home. She also reported her parents to police, but on April 11 returned to them.

Police has been searching for her since May 5, when officers visited her house and found nobody, triggering an investigation.

Officers then discovered that the girl’s parents had left for Pakistan without her, and found images from a nearby security camera that made them fear the worst.

Late on April 29, five people can be seen walking off from the house holding shovels, a crowbar and a bucket, and returning after about two-and-a-half hours.

The Carabinieri have identified the five as the family members suspected of murder. All are believed to have left Italy for Pakistan.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people took part in a solidarity rally for the missing girl organised on Friday night by the town hall of Novellara.

“Saman, tonight you are not alone and you will never again be alone,” Mayor Elena Carletti said in a video posted on local news website Reggioonline.

Title-Winning Conte Says ‘Ciao’ As Inter Milan Dream Ends In Cash Row

From L) Inter Milan’s Vice-President Javier Zanetti, Inter Milan’s President Steven Zhang, Inter Milan’s Italian coach Antonio Conte, Inter Milan’s Sports Coordinator Gabriele Oriali and Inter Milan’s CEO Giuseppe Marotta hold the Scudetto Trophy as Inter players and staff celebrate winning the Serie A 2020-2021 championship after their last Italian Serie A football match Inter Milan vs Udinese on May 23, 2021 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP


Antonio Conte parted company with Inter Milan on Wednesday just days after lifting their first Serie A title in 11 years amid clashes with the club’s cash-strapped Chinese owners on the way forward.

The ambitious Italian refused Suning’s planned cost-cutting which would have prevented him from building the team he wanted to challenge at home and in Europe.

The former Chelsea and Juventus boss took over in May 2019 on a three-year contract worth a reported 12 million euros ($14 million) annually.

But the 51-year-old leaves the San Siro one year early, Inter confirming “an agreement has been reached with Antonio Conte for the termination of his contract by mutual consent”.

Inter Milan’s Italian coach Antonio Conte shouts instructions during the Italian Serie A football match Inter Milan vs Udinese on May 23, 2021 at the San Siro stadium in Milan.

“Antonio Conte will forever remain a part of our club’s history,” the statement added.

Severing Conte’s contract has cost the club a reported seven million euros ($8.5 million), while his final year’s salary would have been around 12 million.

As part of the deal Conte will not be allowed to coach another Serie A club next season, according to reports.

Among the names being touted to replace him are Lazio boss Simone Inzaghi and former Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri, who has also been linked with a return to the Turin club.

For Conte, future destinations could include Tottenham Hotspur and Real Madrid.

‘Like a war zone’

A demanding coach, whose training sessions were described by Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku as ‘like a war zone,’ Conte leaves Inter at the summit of Serie A, a feat last achieved by Jose Mourinho, who won the treble with the club in 2010.

It was a fifth league title for Conte having won three with Juventus between 2012 and 2014 and the Premier League with Chelsea in 2018.

But tensions had been ongoing, having already threatened to leave last summer after losing the Europa League final to Sevilla and finishing second in the league to Juventus.

Despite a second Champions League group stage exit this season Inter clinched their 19th Scudetto with a 12-point lead on AC Milan and with four games remaining.

“This is one of the most important successes of my career,” Conte said.

“Deciding to join Inter was not easy, the team was not equipped to win immediately.

“Furthermore, the opponent was Juventus for whom I had worked for a long time. Today we can say that our sacrifices have paid off.”

Conte rebuilt the ‘Nerazzurri,’ getting the best out of players including former Manchester United star Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez and Nicolo Barella, while others like Christian Eriksen and Ivan Perisic overcame initial difficulties to adapt to Conte’s style.

Captain Samir Handanovic and Lukaku both paid tribute to Conte on social media.

“You came at the right time and basically changed me as a player and made me even stronger mentally,” said Lukaku, Inter’s top scorer the past two seasons.

“Winning is all that matters to you. Thank you for all you did. I owe you a lot.”

Slovenian Handanovic, 36, who won his first trophy after nine years with the club, added: “You were the one who always raised the bar and put the right pressure on everyone… the one who made the difference. Thanks mister.”

Financial woes

Inter registered losses of 100 million euros ($122 million) last season mainly due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Suning Group shut down their Chinese club Jiangsu FC in February months after winning the Chinese Super League title.

Five days ago, Inter secured a cash injection worth 275 million euros with US investment firm Oaktree, in the form of a loan reported to be over three years.

In this context, Suning wants to save as much as possible both on the purchase of new players and salaries, and possibly selling those with the highest value, an approach unacceptable for Conte.

Conte’s three-year spell at Juventus remains the longest of a career already spanning seven clubs, and the Italian national team.

He took Bari and Siena into Serie A, began Juventus’ nine-year domination of the Italian top-flight, guided an unfancied Italy to the semi-finals of Euro 2016 and won the Premier League in his first season at Chelsea.

But he has never tasted European success, falling short with both Juventus and Chelsea before his near-miss with Inter.


Italy Approves 40-Bn-Euro Stimulus Package

File: (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)


Italy’s government on Thursday approved a 40-billion-euro support package for its struggling economy, including 100 million for ailing flag carrier Alitalia.

The eurozone’s third largest economy has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, although Prime Minister Mario Draghi expects growth to improve this year as more people receive vaccines and business activity picks up.

The support package, worth around $49 billion, includes 26 billion euros for businesses and self-employed workers who have been hammered by the worst recession since World War II.

The equally battered tourism sector is to get more than three billion euros in aid.

Alitalia, which has been under state-controlled administration since 2017 and is still struggling to pay wages, won yet another cash injection “for operational and management continuity”, according to a draft government decree seen by AFP.

The airline’s future depends on EU approval of a bigger bailout worth three billion euros that would create a new debt-free company to take over some of Alitalia’s assets.

“I think we will shortly find a solution to allow the launch of this company,” Economy Minister Daniele Franco said, before adding that he did not expect Alitalia to change its name, as initially demanded by Brussels.

After expressing concern last week for a record drop in Italy’s birthrate, Draghi also announced mortgage subsidies for people aged under 36 to help them buy a home and start a family.

Carlo Bonomi, president of the employers’ association Confindustria, called the measures adopted Thursday “important”, but said more was needed to get Italy’s economy back on track.

Last month, the government forecast gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 4.5 percent this year, after 2020’s record contraction of 8.9 percent — Italy’s worst recession since the second world war.

Draghi said “growth figures for this year will probably be revised upwards,” but stressed that a stronger recovery hinged on the success of Italy’s EU-funded 221.1-billion-euro recovery plan.

Since the coronavirus swept across Italy in February 2020, the government has allocated more than 130 billion euros to economic sectors shut down during the country’s lockdown periods.

As a result, public finances have taken a massive hit.

The government’s deficit is expected to balloon to 11.8 percent of GDP this year, compared with just 2.4 percent in 2019.

Public debt should hit 159.8 percent of GDP, the second-highest ratio in the eurozone behind Greece.


Three Arrested In Italy Over Fake Kidnapping That Turned Real

A police officer hold bunch of handcuffs at SARS headqurters in Abuja on October 3rd, 2020 PHOTO: Sodiq Adelakun/Channels TV



Three men have been arrested for masterminding the kidnapping of two Italians who were held captive in Syria for three years, Italian police said Tuesday.

Over the course of 2016, the three who were arrested — all from the northern Brescia province — had convinced two businessmen from the area to travel to Turkey.

One of the two, Alessandro Sandrini, was convinced to go with the offer of faking his own kidnapping during the trip, and earn ransom money.

The other businessman, Sergio Zanotti, made the journey after being promised a business deal involving Iraqi currency.

Once in Turkey, both businessmen were captured for real near the Syrian border and taken to Syria, where they were held captive by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadist group.

According to a police statement, the three men who were arrested had associates in Turkey who carried out the kidnapping and handed the two Italians over to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

Zanotti left Italy in April 2016 and remained a prisoner until April 2019. Sandrini arrived in Turkey in October 2016 and was freed in May 2019.

Media reports, which quoted investigative sources, said Sandrini was charged for fraud and simulating a crime, as part of the same probe that led to Tuesday’s arrests.

Police said a third businessman was approached about making the trip to Turkey, but pulled out at the last minute, refusing to board his plane.

Ronaldo Overtakes Pele, Tops World Goalscoring List


Cristiano Ronaldo hit back at his critics with a quick-fire hat-trick as Juventus brushed aside Cagliari 3-1 on Sunday, five days after their Champions League elimination, while Inter Milan moved nine points clear at the Serie A summit.

Portuguese star Ronaldo bore the brunt of the criticism for Juve’s latest European flop after failing to score in either leg of the last-16 defeat by Porto, while also being partly at fault for what proved to be the goal that knocked them out.

But the 36-year-old scored a header in the 10th minute at the Sardegna Arena, added a second from the penalty spot 15 minutes later, and completed a ‘perfect’ treble on 31 minutes with a fine left-footed strike.

Defending champions Juventus are 10 points behind leaders Inter Milan, who beat Torino 2-1 earlier Sunday, but with a game in hand.

Andrea Pirlo’s side pulled just one point behind second-placed AC Milan, whose title hopes took a big hit following a 1-0 home defeat to Napoli.

“Our approach was spot on and it was important to get off on the right foot after being knocked out the other night,” said Pirlo.

“Ronaldo was angry like the rest of the team. He reacted like a true champion.”

He could also have been sent off after a quarter of an hour, receiving only a yellow card for dangerous play as his boot struck Cagliari goalkeeper Alessio Cragno in the face while attempting to meet a Federico Chiesa cross.

Ronaldo is the leading scorer in Serie A with 23 goals this season, ahead of Inter’s Romelu Lukaku, who has 19.

His career tally is now 770 goals, overtaking Brazil legend Pele’s 767 scored in official matches which he matched earlier this month.

Before kick-off, Juventus chief football officer Fabio Paratici dismissed talk about Ronaldo’s future with the club.

“It makes me laugh. I would never have imagined discussing the value of Cristiano Ronaldo,” said Paratici.

“It’s a privilege to have him with us, he’s part of our future.”

Inter pull clear of Milan

Lautaro Martinez scored a brilliant 85th-minute winner in a tight game against 18th-placed Torino to keep Inter on track for a first league title since 2010.

Antonio Conte’s Inter once again needed their strike duo of Lukaku and Martinez to find a way to win in Turin.

Christian Eriksen came off the bench on 56 minutes and had an immediate impact, playing a part in the move which resulted in Torino defender Armando Izzo fouling Martinez in the penalty area.

Lukaku fired home the resulting spot-kick in the 62nd minute.

Inter looked to be wobbling when Antonio Sanabria pulled Torino level eight minutes later, finishing off goalmouth scramble.

But Martinez snatched the victory by getting his head to an Alexis Sanchez cross for his 14th league goal this term.

Inter stretched their winning run to eight matches to move further ahead of AC Milan.

“Victories like these are crucial,” said Inter assistant coach Cristian Stellini, with Conte serving a touchline ban.

AC Milan’s hopes of a first title since 2011 diminished as they failed to win for their third consecutive game at the San Siro, days before they host Manchester United in their last 16 Europa League decider.

Matteo Politano scored the only goal just after the break with Milan finishing the game a man down after Ante Rebic was sent off in injury time for arguing with officials.

Napoli’s Champions League hopes have been revived as they move above Roma into fifth before the two sides play next weekend after the capital side fell 2-0 at 19th-ranked Parma.

Valentin Mihaila opened the scoring on nine minutes with Hernani added a second from the spot to snap Parma’s 17-match winless run.


Italy Bans Batch Of AstraZeneca Jab But Plays Down Risks

In this file photo, a vial containing the COVID-19 vaccine by AstraZeneca and a syringe are seen on a table. AFP
In this file photo, a vial containing the COVID-19 vaccine by AstraZeneca and a syringe are seen on a table. AFP


Italy’s medicines regulator on Thursday banned the use of a batch of AstraZeneca/Oxford coronavirus vaccine as a precaution, after fears of a link to blood clots sparked suspensions across Europe.

But the regulator said there was currently no established link between the vaccine and the alleged side-effects — a position reinforced by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office.

Draghi’s spokesman said that in a phone call with European Commission chief Ursula Von Der Leyen, “it emerged that there is no evidence of a link between the cases of thrombosis in Europe and the administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine”.

“President Von Der Leyen reported that the European Medicines Agency had initiated a further accelerated review.”

In a statement, Italian regulator AIFA said: “Following the reporting of some serious adverse events… AIFA has decided, as a precaution, to issue a ban on the use of this batch throughout the national territory.”

It said it “reserves the right to take further measures, if necessary,” in coordination with the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

READ ALSO: EU Approves Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine

The batch mentioned by the Italian regulator, ABV2856, is different to that suspended by Austria on Monday, which the EMA named as ABV5300.

On Monday, Austria announced it had suspended the use of the particular AstraZeneca batch, after a 49-year-old nurse died of severe blood coagulation days after receiving the shot.

Other countries followed suit, while Denmark, Norway and Iceland on Thursday went further, suspending entirely the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

The EMA said Thursday there had been 30 cases of ‘thromboembolic events’ among five million people who have had the jab so far in Europe.

However the EMA added there is no indication that the vaccine caused these conditions and that the AstraZeneca jab could continue to be used pending the results of a probe.


Italy Seeks UN Probe Into DRC Envoy’s Killing

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio looks on as he prepares to address parliament in Rome on February 24, 2021 on the death of the Italian ambassador in an attack in DR Congo. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / POOL / AFP)


Italy said Wednesday it has asked the United Nations to launch an investigation into the killing of its ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The envoy, Luca Attanasio, 43, died on Monday after a World Food Programme (WFP) convoy was ambushed in a dangerous part of the eastern DRC near the border with Rwanda.

Attanasio’s Italian bodyguard and a Congolese driver were also killed.

“We have formally asked WFP (World Food Programme) and the UN to open an investigation to clarify what happened, the reasons behind the security arrangements used and who was responsible for these decisions,” Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told parliament.

Di Maio’s comments came the morning after the bodies of the two Italians were returned by military plane to Rome.

READ ALSO: EU Chief Seeks ‘Amicable’ Solution As AstraZeneca Admits New Delays

“We expect, in the briefest possible time, clear and exhaustive answers,” Di Maio said.

On Monday, the DRC’s interior ministry blamed the killings on the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a Rwandan Hutu rebel group.

But the FDLR rejected the allegation and instead blamed the Rwandan and DRC militaries.

Di Maio said the party was relying on UN protocol during the trip from the capital Kinshasa to Goma, some 2,500 kilometres (1,550 miles) east, but that Attanasio had “full power” to decide how and where to move within DRC.

“The mission took place at the invitation of the United Nations. So even the car journey took place within the organisational framework set up by the World Food Programme,” Di Maio.

The WFP is a branch of the UN which focuses on hunger and food security, and which was awarded the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize.

Di Maio said a team of Italian police had already been dispatched to the DRC for an initial investigation and others would follow.

– Opened fire –

In addressing the Chamber of Deputies, Di Maio provided preliminary details of how the attack on the two vehicles unfolded in the mountainous, thickly forested area about 25 kilometres from Goma, between 10am and 11am local time.

Six attackers “allegedly forced the vehicles to stop by placing obstacles on the road and firing several shots from small arms in the air,” Di Maio said.

Although the sound of gunfire attracted park rangers from the nearby Virunga National Park, a wildlife reserve, and army soldiers, the attackers ordered the members of the convoy out of the vehicles and into the bush, Di Maio said, citing information from the governor of North Kivu.

“The governor added that in order to force their victims to leave the road and enter the bush, the assailants killed the WFP driver. According to initial reconstructions of the WFP, the assailants then drove the rest of the members into the forest,” he said.

Upon the arrival of the armed park rangers at the site, the attackers “opened fire on the (bodyguard) soldier, killing him, and on the Italian ambassador, seriously wounding him.”

Attanasio was later evacuated to a hospital in Goma, where he died.

The DRC interior ministry said Monday that security services and provincial authorities had not been informed in advance of Attanasio’s trip.

But the WFP said the road on which the attack occurred had previously been cleared for travel without security escorts.

DR Congo Accuses Hutu Rebels Of Killing Italian Ambassador, Two Others

A photo combination of Italian Luca Attanasio and a medical vehicle of the North Kivu hospital loaded with the body of the driver on a road on the edge of the Virunga National Park near the village of Kibumba, some 25km from Goma, where the Italian ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo, his bodyguard and driver, were killed earlier when their car came under gunfire while he was on a field trip on February 22, 2021. ALEXIS HUGUET / AFP



Italy’s ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo was among three people killed on Monday when a UN convoy was ambushed in the country’s troubled east, an attack the government blamed on a Rwandan Hutu rebel group.

Luca Attanasio died of his wounds after a World Food Programme (WFP) convoy came under gunfire near Goma while he was on a field trip, a senior diplomatic source said in Kinshasa.

The Italian government confirmed Attanasio’s death and said an Italian policeman, Vittorio Iacovacci, as well as a driver it did not identify, had also died.

READ ALSO: Ugandan Soldiers Jailed For Assaulting Journalists

President Sergio Mattarella lashed what he called a “cowardly attack.”

“The Italian republic is in mourning for these servants of the state who lost their lives,” he said in a statement.

Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio expressed his “great dismay and immense sorrow”, breaking off from a meeting in Brussels with EU counterparts to make an early return to Rome.

The DRC’s interior ministry, in a statement, blamed the attack on “members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR),” a Rwandan Hutu rebel group that has plagued the region for more than a quarter of a century.

Four people were kidnapped, one of whom was later found, it said.

Attanasio, 43, had been representing Italy in Kinshasa since 2017, first as head of mission, and then as ambassador from October 2019.

The envoy suffered “gunshot wounds to the abdomen” and was taken to a hospital in Goma in critical condition, the diplomat in Kinshasa said.

The DRC’s army said its troops were searching the area for the assailants.

– Troubled region –
A vast country the size of continental western Europe, the DRC is grappling with numerous conflicts, especially in its remote, mineral-rich east.

Scores of militias roam the four eastern provinces, many of them a legacy of wars in the 1990s that sucked in countries around central-southern Africa and claimed millions of lives.

According to a US monitor, the Kivu Security Tracker (KST), 122 armed groups were active in North and South Kivu, Ituri and Tanganyika provinces last year. More than 2,000 civilians were killed, according to UN figures issued last week.

Monday’s attack occurred north of the North Kivu capital of Goma, in Nyiaragongo Territory — an area where the FDLR is one of a number of armed groups.

Some of the founders of the FDLR were involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide in which 800,000 people, mainly Tutsis but also Hutu moderates, were slaughtered by the Hutu majority.

The group is opposed to the current Rwandan government but has not launched any large-scale offensive in Rwanda since 2001.

In April last year, the FDLR was blamed for killing 12 rangers in the Virunga National Park, a UNESCO-listed wildlife reserve that is home to critically-endangered mountain gorillas.

Another group in the area north of Goma is a Congolese Tutsi group also known as the Congolese Revolutionary Army, which took Goma in 2012-2013.

The WFP said Attanasio had been with it on a fact-finding mission.

“The delegation was travelling from Goma to visit a WFP school feeding programme in Rutshuru when the incident took place,” it said in a statement.

“The attack… occurred on a road that had previously been cleared for travel without security escorts,” it said.


Resident of the village of Kibumba stand as UN and Congolese armed forces soldiers retrieve bodies on the edge of the Virunga National Park, some 25km from Goma, where Italy’s ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo, his bodyguard and driver, were killed earlier when their car came under gunfire while he was on a field trip on February 22, 2021.


But the DRC interior ministry said the security services and provincial authorities had not been given advance warning.

“(They) were unable to provide special security for the convoy or come to its aid because of a lack of information about their presence in this part of the country, despite its reputation for instability,” its statement said.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres issued a statement urging the DRC to swiftly investigate a “heinous targeting’ of a UN mission.

– ‘Uncommon courage’ –
Attanasio joined the Italian diplomatic service in 2003 and had previously served in Switzerland, Morocco and Nigeria.

He was hailed as “a man gifted with uncommon courage, humanity and professionalism” by Emanuela Del Re, who was deputy foreign minister from 2018 until last month.

“I remember his infectious smile, his class, his great knowledge of African affairs,” she said. “Ciao (good-bye) my dear esteemed Luca.”

Attanasio is the second European ambassador to have been killed while serving in the DRC.

In January 1993, French ambassador Philippe Bernard was killed during riots in Kinshasa sparked by troops opposing dictator Mobutu Sese Seke.


Italy Confirms Death Of Its Ambassador To DR Congo

The Italian Flag.


Italy’s ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Luca Attanasio, was killed on Monday travelling with a UN convoy in eastern DRC, the foreign ministry in Rome said.

“It is with deep sadness that the Foreign Ministry confirms the death, today in Goma, of the Italian ambassador,” the ministry said, adding that an Italian policeman also died.

More to follow . . . 

Mario Draghi Sworn In As Italy’s Prime Minister

Italy’s Prime Minister, Mario Draghi arrives on February 13, 2021 for a formal swearing-in ceremony of his government at the Quirinale presidential palace in Rome. Former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi was formally appointed Italy’s new prime minister on February 12, charged with guiding his country through the devastation wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.
Tiziana FABI / AFP


Mario Draghi was formally sworn in as Italy’s new prime minister on Saturday, following weeks of instability in the eurozone’s third-largest economy. 

The appointment of the 73-year-old known as “Super Mario” capped weeks of political instability for the country still in the grips of the health crisis that has killed more than 93,000 people.

“I swear to be loyal to the Republic,” recited Draghi, as he stood before President Sergio Mattarella in the ornate presidential palace in a televised ceremony.

Members of his new cabinet, who include technocrats, veteran politicians and ministers held over from the previous government, each took the oath of office.

Draghi was parachuted in by Mattarella after the previous centre-left coalition under premier Giuseppe Conte collapsed, leading Italy rudderless amid the worst recession since World War II.

After assembling a broad-based coalition, on Friday night he formally accepted the post of premier, publicly revealing the new cabinet for the first time.

On Wednesday, Draghi will be presented to the Senate, the upper house of parliament, followed by the lower Chamber of Deputies on Thursday for a confidence vote that will give the final official blessing to his government.

“Break a leg,” read the headline on La Stampa daily Saturday, as an Ipsos poll in the Corriere della Sera daily showed 62 percent of Italians supporting Draghi.

Following the swearing-in, Conte greeted his successor in Chigi Palace, the prime minister’s office, during a short ceremony, receiving sustained applause from civil servants in the courtyard before departing in an official vehicle.

Conte’s final months in office were marked by political turmoil but the former law professor — who rose to power in 2018 with no prior political experience — represented for many Italians a comforting, steady hand during the darkest moments of the pandemic last year.

 – Coalition, for now? –

Draghi has the support of a rainbow coalition ranging from leftists to Matteo Salvini’s far-right League.

It includes the populist Five Star Movement (M5S), the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and Italia Viva — who made-up the previous government before falling out over the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

M5S, parliament’s biggest party that began life as an anti-establishment movement, was split over whether to support a government led by an unelected technocrat.

But in an online vote, members backed Draghi by 59 percent, after securing the promise of a new super-ministry for “ecological transition”.

That post has gone to renowned physicist Roberto Cingolani, who works at Italian aeronautics giant Leonardo.

The senior deputy governor of Bank of Italy, Daniele Franco, was named economy minister, while Roberto Speranza and Luigi Di Maio stay on at health and foreign affairs, respectively.

– Challenges await –

Italy has high hopes for its new leader, who famously said he would do “whatever it takes” to save the eurozone in the midst of the 2010s debt crisis.

Although he himself has no political power base, Draghi relies on years of experience in the Italian civil service, as well as his banking career.

His arrival was cheered by the financial markets with Italy’s borrowing costs dropping to a historic low this week.

Nevertheless, “it is difficult to overstate the scale of the challenges that Draghi and Italy face”, said Luigi Scazzieri of the Centre for European Reform.

The Covid-19 shutdown and waves of subsequent restrictions caused the economy to shrink by a staggering 8.9 percent last year, while more than 420,000 people have lost their jobs.

The virus remains rife and Conte’s cabinet, in one of its last acts, on Friday tightened curbs in four regions and extended a ban on inter-regional travel.

Like other European Union countries, Italy has also fallen behind in its vaccination programme, blaming delivery delays.

The country is pinning hopes on receiving more than 220 billion euros ($267 billion) in EU recovery funds to help get back on its feet, but analysts expect uphill challenges for Draghi in pushing through structural reforms.


Outbreak Of UK COVID-19 Variant Detected In Italian Town

File: Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)


Health experts warned on Thursday of new coronavirus variants beginning to circulate in Italy, as authorities pinpointed an outbreak of a UK strain in a northern town.

The town of Corzano in the Lombardy region has been swabbing close contacts of students and teachers in a school where 24 people tested positive for Covid-19 last month.

After 139 people were found positive out of 189 tested, health authorities in the province of Brescia decided to sequence the samples, which identified the British strain of the virus.

“Fourteen samples were sequenced which resulted in… 14 positives for the British variant,” the Brescia health agency wrote in a statement sent to AFP on Thursday.

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The more easily transmissible British variant of the coronavirus is one of several to have emerged internationally in recent months.

Although only one of the 139 people who tested positive in Corzano has been hospitalised, and most others are asymptomatic, health experts warned that the arrival of new virus variants should not be underestimated.

Italy was the first European country to be hit by coronavirus a year ago and so far 90,000 people with Covid-19 have died.

Independent health think tank GIMBE said overall cases had recently declined thanks to restrictions on movement over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays and into January.

But it warned that the first signs of increases in some regions could point to the presence of new variants.

GIMBE President Nino Cartabellotta said the country was undergoing “one of the most critical phases of the pandemic”.

He noted the slowdown of the vaccination programme that began in late December, following delays in the delivery of doses, and “the first signs of increased circulation of the virus, undoubtedly underestimated”.

“But above all looms the threat of new variants, already landed in Italy, which risk increasing the contagion curve,” Cartabellotta added.

In Corzano, authorities believe they have successfully contained the outbreak, saying that in the first three days of February, only one or two people a day had tested positive for the virus.

But GIMBE noted that nine regions had registered a rise in new infections in the seven days from January 27 to Tuesday, compared with the previous week, and recommended genome sequencing when abnormal spikes in new cases are detected.

Italy’s health ministry confirmed the country’s first case of the UK variant on December 20, in a patient recently returned from Britain.