ROME — Italy said Thursday it would increase its military presence in the central Mediterranean, describing a deadly attack on a museum in Tunis as fresh evidence of a growing threat from extremist groups.
“Following a worsening of the terrorist threat, dramatically demonstrated by yesterday’s events in Tunisia, an increase in our air and naval deployments in the central Mediterranean has become necessary,” Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti told the parliamentary defence and foreign affairs committee.
At least two Italian tourists died in Wednesday’s attack on the Bardo museum in Tunis.
The minister said the increased military presence was required to defend Italy’s multiple interests in the area in light of the growing risk posed by the presence of extremist groups and to ensure consistent levels of maritime security.
“North Africa has to represent our primary concern,” Pinotti told lawmakers.
On top of the forces usually deployed, Italy has moved additional naval units, a maritime protection team, helicopters, planes and drones into the area, she added.
Pinotti said the extra resources were needed to protect communication lines, merchant shipping and offshore platforms and to facilitate increased surveillance of potential jihadist activity.