A crazed Brazilian man dressed in black ran along the main road outside the Roman Colosseum Monday afternoon, brandishing a butcher knife with an 8-inch blade and screaming “Allah is great,” according to eyewitnesses.
As tourists at the scene panicked and fled screaming, three vehicles of the local police arrived and began pursuing the man. A foot chase ensued as the man attempted to lose himself among the crowds, until agents caught up with the suspect on the main road outside the Roman Forum.
The man then seized a 27-year-old Italian tourist and made her kneel down as he held his knife to her throat in an attempt to make the police back down. With weapons drawn, the police refused to withdraw and the man shoved the woman to the ground and bolted.
Because of the terrified crowds running in every direction, pursuit in police cars was impossible, but two officers on motorcycles eventually caught up with the man in Piazza Venezia and disarmed and arrested him.
The young woman, who was in Rome with her boyfriend for her sister’s graduation, was rushed to the hospital and treated for shock, though she appeared to be unwounded.
“I felt myself pulled suddenly into the middle of the crowd,” she said afterward. “Then I felt the blade of the knife that he was holding against me. I feared the worst would happen.”
“I could not see the weapon,” she said. “The whole attack lasted seconds but I felt a tremendous fear. The man was yelling like a maniac. Luckily the police came though.”
“It looked like a scene from ISIS,” said one eyewitness. “He made the girl kneel down, just like you see in the videos of the terrorists, while holding a knife to her throat. The only thing missing was the orange jumpsuit.”
“This madman,” said another, “when he saw the police, grabbed the girl as a hostage and put a knife to her throat. One of the agents managed to distract him and free the girl.”
“His behavior seemed to replicate the methods of Islamic terrorism that we are all familiar with,” he said.
The 33-year-old man is now being charged with attempted murder and resisting arrest.
Rome has been on high alert ever since ISIS representatives threatened to attack and conquer the capital city, symbol of Western Christianity.
“I want to thank the officers of Rome’s Municipal Police who this afternoon captured a man armed with a knife threatening scared tourists said Rome’s Mayor Ignazio Marino.
“Our officers have shown courage and readiness in the supervision of the territory. These acts breed pride and confidence in the police force among Romans, myself included.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.