March 25, 2018
Rome is on a high alert after a Bomb threat sparked the evacuation of a popular shopping centre in the Italian capital this afternoon.
Rome terror fears: Bomb alert hours after military launch terrorist manhunt in capital
Police were scrambled to the Rinascente, which is home to several high-end department stores, shortly after 3pm local time (2pm UK time).
The security alert came after journalists at the newspaper Il Messaggero received a call claiming a bomb had been planted in a nearby car.
A shocked eyewitness told local news site Roma Today: "We received the order to leave the building at around 2pm.
"When we saw the dogs and the police squad cars we realised that it was a bomb alert."
Bomb disposal experts reportedly entered the building to carry out a sweep for any explosive devices.
However, the phone call has since been confirmed as a hoax by police.
Counter-terror officers have ramped up patrols in the Italian capital this weekend over fears a suspected Islamist extremist is on the loose.
Italy's military police force, known as the carabinieri, are reportedly hunting for Mathlouthi Atef, 42, after he was flagged up as a "possible bomber".
Rome terror fears: Bomb alert hours after military launch terrorist manhunt in capital
A mugshot of the Tunisian suspect is being circulated over fears he could strike bars, train stations and shopping centres in Rome.
The alert came after the Italian embassy in Tunisia's capital, Tunis, received an anonymous letter claiming a man was "ready to attack the centre of Rome".
Atef is already known to police for drug dealing and "other minor crimes", according to Il Giornale.
The Foreign Office website warns that "terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Italy" and warns British tourists to be vigilant.
Rome terror fears: Bomb alert hours after military launch terrorist manhunt in capital
It adds: "Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by foreigners. There are isolated cases of domestic terrorism.
"Attacks carried out by the extreme left-wing and secessionist groups have generally been aimed at official Italian targets, mainly in the form of small bombs and incendiary devices.
"The Italian authorities have made a number of arrests of individuals with links to Islamic State (ISIS) and other extremist groups.
There is a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria."
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