The terror threat in Italy is very high, although it is a different kind of danger, one that’s not necessarily tied to direct actions against the population. In recent years, we noticed how our country has become a transit point rather than a real target. Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel – the Nice promenade attacker – and Anis Amri, perpetrator of the Berlin attack, passed into Italy unmolested. The Amri transit was even more sensational because it cost him his life, killed by two police officers during their routine patrol. Even Khalid el Bakraoui, one of the Brussels suicide bombers had traveled from Treviso spending one quiet night in Venice.
Various terrorists’ movements, collected by Italian investigators in partnership with other European Law Enforcement agencies, have resulted in the discovery of new sleeper cells ready to strike European soft-targets. The Italian government has increased its countermeasures: the recent Christmas celebrations in Milan, Genoa, Rome and Turin have been marked by a considerable Police and Army presence. The sight of the first anti vehicle barricades located around the place provoked curiosity and concern.
In addition to regular patrols, experts have noted some of Carabineri’s counter-terror personnel, never before seen. By 2016 the Arma dei Carabinieri had activated new counter-terrorism response teams that are not comparable to G.I.S. (Gruppo Intervento Speciale) or American Police SWAT. They’re named A.P.I. (First Intervention Team) and the S.O.S. (Operative Support Squad). Unlike G.I.S. (Special Forces Tier 1) the A.P.I. units – 18 in total, divided in 16 provincial capitals – patrol the town, blending among the population, giving a tangible sign of their presence.
They aren’t “regular” Carabinieri and their training is run by the G.I.S. specialists and Tuscania paratroopers. The Carabinieri’s A.P.I Officers have been seen wearing special equipment for facing a sustained gunbattle and using tools much more advanced than normal municipal patrols. They are equipped with special suits, tactical vests ballistic helmets, bulletproof shields and Beretta AR 70/90 assault rifles. The patrols travel on armored vehicles like the Subaru Outback, Forester or Land Rover. These new First Response units depend directly on the Carabinieri’s Provincial Command which sends them to most sensitive targets.