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Italy manhunt for Tunisia suspect is possible stitch up

March 27, 2018 at 11:33 am

Counter-terror officers in Italy are hunting for Mathlouthi Atef, 42 [Twitter]

Since the weekend, a national manhunt for a Tunisian citizen has been underway in Italy after the Italian embassy in Tunis received an anonymous letter warning that Atef Mathlouthi was planning a terror attack in Rome.

The 42-year-old Tunisian was already known to the police for drug trafficking and “other minor crimes” but according to the letter, Mathouthi was planning to attack cafes, tourist sites and shopping centres in the Italian capital, Rome.

Italian media broadcasted his picture across national networks and authorities were sent an image of Mathlouthi to identify the suspect. According to Italian newspaper Corriere, intelligence services deemed the threat “credible and imminent” and Britain’s foreign ministry issued a warning to its citizens in Rome to remain “vigilant”.

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However, according to Mathlouthi’s lawyer “he is not a terrorist”.

“He committed crimes when he was in Italy but he changed his life, and he did not live in Palermo for six years, he returned to Tunisia because his residence permit had expired,” the lawyer explained.

Mathlouthi, who has been living in the Tunisian city of Mahdia since 2012, featured on Italian television show “Chi l’ha visto?” in which he stated he was not “a fugitive”.

“I have been working in a bar in Mahdia for six years, and I send money to my wife and children. Everything is in order,” he said.

According to the Tunisian interior ministry, Mathlouthi is currently residing in Tunisia and has not been identified as having any links with terrorist circles.  Authorities recognise that the anonymous letter had tendentious motives and may have come from someone who had a personal dispute with Mathlouthi which may involve issues with money.