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Italy sends 3,000 troops to cities for security

Latest update : 2008-08-06

The Italian government has dispatched 3,000 soldiers to the nation's largest cities to heighten security, a move interpreted as a crackdown on illegal immigrants. PM Silvio Berlusconi has been criticised for the move.

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Italian authorities on Monday deployed 3,000 troops into major cities and sensitive zones in a controversial move to boost security, media reported Monday.

About 1,000 will be used to patrol around embassies and other key targets, about 1,000 at centres where illegal migrants are held and 1,000 for mixed patrols with police in city centres, the reports said.

Four hundred soldiers were to guard 10 major underground railway stations in the Italian capital, the main Termini railway station, embassies and a centre for migrants.

But mayor of Rome Gianni Alemanno said no soldier would patrol in the historic centre where most tourists are concentrated.

In Milan, about 150 soldiers will protect the city's cathedral and railway station.

On the island of Lampedusa, where thousands of migrants have arrived from Africa in recent months seeking to enter Europe, 70 air force troops will replace police who patrol the perimeter of a reception centre.

The Italian left and police unions have criticised the use of troops, accusing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government of seeking to "militarize" city centres.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said he wanted to "give the public a better perception of security."

Date created : 2008-08-04