Man reciting Muslim prayers and carrying large axe arrested in Venice

Italian police said Monday they arrested a man who was spotted behaving strangely while reciting Muslim prayers inside Venice's train station and found him to be in possession of a rucksack containing a 30-centimetre axe and a sharp stone.

The suspect was taken in for questioning early on Sunday. He told officers he had dual German-Turkish nationality and showed a Turkish passport with an expired Schengen visa belonging to another man and missing authenticity stamps, a police statement said.

He was charged with making false statements about his identity.

Italy's Polizia di Stato said the arrest was influenced by the man's peculiar profile: he displayed "religious zeal pushed to the extreme," claimed to be a Turkish intelligence officer, and spoke five languages: English, German, French, Turkish and Arabic.

Authorities erred on the side of caution also because sensitive events were taking place Sunday: Muslims across Italy were invited to join Catholics in Sunday church prayers, while in Venice, an open-air theatre show was being staged in the Jewish ghetto area.

The suspect was in the company of two men and three women at the train station.

One was stopped with him in Venice, while the other four were intercepted hours later in Milan. All were released. The group of four said they found the arrested man's behaviour "disturbing and over the top," police said.

Last update: Mon, 01/08/2016 - 16:01

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