Frogmen Ferret Out Security Problems With AM-Summit Rdp
VENICE, Italy (AP) _ Italian Navy frogmen probed the waters around San Giorgio Island Saturday to ferret out any undersea security threats to the seven Western leaders gathering for the economic summit.
The frogmen are part of a combined force of commandos, high-speed patrol boats and helicopters making a stronghold of the tiny island portrayed as ″the aircraft carrier San Giorgio″ by Italian cartoonists.
″We want to seal off the area,″ Col. Oscar Pedrazzini said Saturday.
Pedrazzini, the Italian Foreign Ministry official in charge of logistics and security, said the frogmen’s mission was to search the waters and sewage outlets around the island. They were also detailed to check the underwater electronic sensors positioned to detect any intrusions.
The summit sessions will take place in a convention center on the island, located less than a mile from Venice.
Standing guard, two Italian Navy helicopter carriers were anchored in the waters that divided Venice from the island summit site.
The Italian military planned to use its helicopters to intercept any small planes flying too near the exclusion zone around the island.
The island of San Giorgio, or St. George, is believed to have been an ancient storm shelter for Roman ships. It houses a merchant marine academy, whose hundreds of students were given an early vacation last month so their quarters could be used by the thousands of journalists covering the event.
For several days in advance of the visit, only accredited journalists, officials and service personnel were allowed on the island. They were transported by a special ferry, their first steps on land monitoring by submachine gun-toting ″Carabinieri,″ the Italain paramilitary police.
Saturday night the island was to be closed for 12 hours so troops and police armed with 300 metal detectors could search it.
Afterwards, several hundred troops and police are due to patrol the island through the summit to keep out any potential security threats.
The Italian troops and police will be reinforced by the security services of the other six summit participants. In Venice itself, frogmen probed the canals near hotels where national leaders are staying, police dogs sniffed passengers leaving trains and the city has issued a 200-page ordinance listing off-limits areas for the city next week.
Venice’s Marco Polo Airport has been closed to civilian traffic, and passengers forced to land 18 miles northwest of Venice at Treviso Airport, where plainclothes security agents and commando troops monitor arrivals.
A total of about 7,000 security personnel have been enlisted in the summit protection effort.
Last Thursday, Italian authorities arrested five alleged Red Brigades terrorists and reportedly found plans in their apartment for an attack on the Italian official in charge of summit preparations.