American citizens arrested in Rome after police officer killed

Mario Cerciello RegaImage copyright Carabinieri
Image caption Mario Cerciello Rega was a vice brigadier in the Carabinieri police force

Two American citizens have been arrested after a police officer was stabbed to death in the centre of Rome.

Mario Cerciello Rega, 35, was with a colleague when they confronted two suspected thieves in the Prati district in the early hours of Friday.

It is thought that a group of men had stolen a man’s bag, before arranging to meet him and return it in exchange for €100 (£90; $111).

When two men turned up, they were met by the officers.

One of the men produced a knife and stabbed Cerciello Rega repeatedly before they fled.

The two arrested Americans are thought to be linked to the mugging, but not to the stabbing, Italian reports say.

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Cerciello Rega was a vice brigadier in Italy’s paramilitary Carabinieri police force. He had been married only 43 days and had returned from his honeymoon only this week.

His funeral will be held on Monday, in the same church in which he was married.

The killing shocked Italy and prompted tributes from across the country.

Hours after his death became known, Italian state police stopped their cars outside the general headquarters of the Carabinieri and sounded their sirens in tribute to the officer.

On its social media pages, the Carabinieri paid tribute to Cerciello Rega’s “unconditional and brave dedication”, and said his loss would be felt by 110,000 of his fellow Carabinieri officers.

Flowers have also been left at the Carabinieri station in Rome’s Piazza Fornese.

Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini also offered his condolences on Twitter, describing the officer as “a hero, a boy with all his life ahead”.

Mr Salvini had earlier called for the attacker to face “forced labour in prison for as long as he lives”.

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