by Eric J. Lyman
ROME, Feb.18 (Xinhua) -- Although Italy's geopolitical role, combined with an expertise in confronting extremist groups, has so kept it safe from terror attacks, the country would never be immune from the threat of an attack, a leading international security expert told Xinhua.
Italy remains the only major country in Western Europe to avoid a major terror attack since 2000. But while there are solid reasons why Italy has avoided an attack up until now, Sabrina Magris, an anti-terrorism expert and president of the International University School of Rome and Florence, the only European institution that prepares negotiators for hostage and terror threats, said it may just be a matter of time.
"Reducing risks to zero is impossible," Magris said in an exclusive interview. "There is no reason to be complacent."
Magris noted that recent terror attacks in Paris and Nice of France, Brussels of Belgium, and in Berlin of Germany are examples of the type of attacks that could also hit Italy.
"With so many travelers in Italy, there are plenty of big, international crowds that could be victims of an attack," Magris said.
She said Italy's role as a "useful transit" point for the movement of people between Africa and the Middle East to Europe is a factor that helps keep the country safe, noting that the attackers in Paris and Nice both came through Italy.
The country's long-standing political and economic ties with those parts of the world are also relevant factors, she added.
Moreover, law enforcement's experience in confronting the Red Brigade extremists in the 1970s and 1980s, and the Mafia and other organized crime groups in southern Italy going back generations have helped hone skills useful in confronting international terror groups like al-Qaida and ISIS.
That experience is also at play as Italy has beefed up security and surveillance at popular tourist spots and monuments.
The fact that Italy never had an extensive colonial empire has also kept Italy at arm's length from many of the world's problem spots.
Magris said the willingness of Italians to give up some personal privacy in return for better security is also a factor.
"None of these things by itself is a reason by itself, but combined they have so far been enough to keep Italians safe," she said. "But as we have seen there is still no way to prevent an attack from a group intent on causing damage and making people fearful, or of a lone wolf attacker working alone."