ROME — Italy’s foreign minister, Franco Frattini, said Wednesday the death toll from days of unrest in Libya was likely more than 1,000.
The Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini delivering his message on the situation in Libya in the Italian lower house of Parliament on Wednesday.
Mr. Frattini told reporters in Rome that he believed estimates that more than 1,000 Libyan civilians had been killed in the clashes with security forces and government supporters “appear to be true.”
Estimates on the death toll in Libya have been difficult to pin down. Human Rights Watch has confirmed roughly 300 deaths in the week-long uprising, but has noted its estimate is conservative because of the difficulty of gathering information from morgues and hospitals during due to intermittent phone service and a near Internet blackout.
Addressing the Italian parliament on Wednesday morning after his comments about the death toll, Mr. Frattini said he was concerned about a rise in “Islamic radicalism” and “the rise of an Islamic emirate” in eastern Libya, including the Cyrenaica region, which he said was “no longer under the Libyan government’s control.” That region was one of three countries that were merged as Libya by Italian colonialists in the early 1930’s.
“This radical Islamism worries us because it is only a few hundred kilometers from the European Union,” Mr. Frattini said, adding that, “nothing can justify the violent killing of hundreds of innocent civilians.”
Mr. Frattini’s remarks on Libya were the Italian government’s strongest to date. In recent days, critics had called on Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to use his close ties with Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to pressure him to stop the violence in Libya.
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