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Former Mossad Agent Among 4 Killed in Mysterious Shipwreck in Northern Italy

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  Edited by: TJVNews.com

A retired Israeli Mossad agent and two Italian intelligence agents were among the four dead when a sudden storm sank a houseboat hired for a pleasure cruise this weekend on a northern Italian lake, authorities said Tuesday, as was reported by the Associated Press. The other person killed was a Russian woman.

The boating accident took place on Saturday on Lake Maggiore, in northern Italy, Italian media reported.

According to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, the boat could only hold 15 passengers but there were 9 more people aboard. Those killed were identified as Tiziana Barnobi, 53, and Claudio Alonzi, 62, both members of the Italian intelligence services; and Shimoni Erez, 60, an Israeli national “who had allegedly been a member of Mossad”, as well as Anna Bozhkova, 50, a Russian national who was married to the boat’s skipper.

Other news agencies reported that several Mossad agents were killed in the incident, but the claim has not been corroborated by Italian media.  The reasons for the gathering on Lake Maggiore are unclear but the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera stated that the group had several “meetings in (the northern Italian region of) Lombardy to exchange intelligence and documents.”

CNN reported that the boat’s captain, Claudio Carminati, whose Russian partner Anna Bozhkova, also died in the incident, is under investigation for culpable manslaughter, according to the Italian prosecutor. Italy’s military police, the Carabinieri, are assisting with the investigation, the prosecutor’s office told CNN.

Carminati, 10 years older than his wife, with extensive experience in various commercial activities, from clothing stores to pastry shops, has an excellent command of the Bulgarian language from previous work in Sofia as well as French, according to a report on the tellerreport.com web site. The tellerreport.com obtained its information from the El Mundo newspaper. Carminati was behind the wheel of the ill fated ship over the weekend.

The boat’s captain, Claudio Carminati, whose Russian partner Anna Bozhkova, also died in the incident, is under investigation for culpable manslaughter, according to the Italian prosecutor. Italy’s military police, the Carabinieri, are assisting with the investigation, the prosecutor’s office told CNN. Photo Credit: ilmattino.it

Taking advantage of the friendship with Carminati, it is unknown whether on the Italian or foreign side, someone had proposed the trip over the waters, the tellerreport.com web site stated. The result of the investigation of the Public Ministry of Busto Arsizio, led by Carlo Nocerino and the carabinieri of the Provincial Command of Varese, under the command of Colonel Gianluca Piasentin, could trigger serious legal consequences for the skipper (including the accusation of homicide), together with his wife of the newly created company Love Lake srl. and the owner of the ship, as was reported on the tellerreport.com.

On April 5, in the city of Alessandria, in the office of the notary Aldo Mariano, the couple had ratified the creation of the company aimed at the “organization of excursions”, “boat accommodation activities” and the “management of hotels and non-hotel facilities, and in particular owners, bed & breakfast, holiday houses and apartments, mountain huts and religious houses of welcome”, with a share capital of 475 euros.

CNN affiliate Sky Tg24 reported that the 16-meter (52-foot) houseboat was carrying 24 people at over capacity when an apparent waterspout struck it, causing it to capsize.

CNN reported that passengers had been reportedly celebrating a birthday party when the boat, traveling between the Italian towns of Lisanza and Dormelletto, capsized, according to Sky Tg24. Italy’s security services said that, “The two employees, belonging to the intelligence department, were taking part in a convivial meeting organized to celebrate the birthday of one of the group.”

Lake Maggiore is a popular destination for tourists and is shared by Italy and Switzerland.

Some of the party managed to swim to the shore, according Sky Tg24, adding that, although five were taken to the hospital, none of the survivors sustained any serious injuries, as was reported by CNN. Divers and a helicopter were also used as part of the search and rescue operation, according to the local fire service.

The Israeli victim and another Israeli national were not expected to be on the boat, the local prosecutor said, CNN said, after the two had missed a flight on Sunday, Israeli media reported.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry on Tuesday confirmed the death of one Israeli citizen, saying he was a retiree from the Israeli security forces, according to the AP report.

A government official overseeing Italy’s secret services, Alfredo Mantovano, has expressed condolences for the deaths of two agents, a man and a woman, who were on board, the AP reported.

Police on Tuesday said they had no further information of the identities or professions of the 19 other people on board when the boat capsized off shore near the town of Lisanza, on the southern end of the lake that extends north into Switzerland, as was reported by the AP. Some survivors managed to swim to shore, while others were picked up by other boats. Media reports said the boat had traveled to the lake’s islands and stopped for lunch in the Piedmont region.

Earlier, it was announced that there were 20 Italian and Israeli intelligence agents on the boat, as was reported by Israel National News.  It was also reported that after the incident, 10 Israeli agents were transferred on an emergency military flight back to Israel.

INN also reported that at the same time, the agents of the Italian intelligence service were secretly taken out of the emergency rooms where they were hospitalized in Italy in order not to reveal their identities.

The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported that the boat should not have been in the water because extreme weather, including thunderstorms, had begun in the area more than two hours earlier, and other boats had returned to shore long before the accident occurred, according to a report in the Jerusalem Post.

Authorities had not yet retrieved the boat, the report said.

“I heard screams for help, desperate screams. I saw many swimming in the icy water,” said retiree Franco Lora, as was indicated by the tellerreport.com.

“I immediately left in the boat, but the boat could no longer be seen, it had already been swallowed by the lake. You could only see pieces of wood and chairs floating around,” said Daniele Piccaluga, owner of the shipyard of the same name.

Advertising for Claudio Carminati’s business on Lake Maggiore, included that “we sail even in case of rain.”

It is not ruled out that there had been modifications to the hull to add additional space for passengers, at the top of the ship, which the ongoing investigation will determine as well as whether those changes were in accordance with the regulations or not, even if they could have amplified the impact of the storm, according to information provided by the tellerreport.com.

The JPost reported that the lake where the boat capsized is in the same area as the cable-car crash two years ago that left Eitan Biran an orphan. Biran was then kidnapped by his grandfather and taken to Israel. Israeli courts ruled that Biran must be returned to his aunt and uncle in Italy with whom he had been living.

The trip to the lake was not planned, but occurred because, after meetings in Lombardy to exchange information and documents, the Israelis had missed the plane back and would have decided to extend the stay over the weekend, until returning on Monday, May 29 to their country, according to one of the unofficial versions.

The AFP reported that the president of the Lombardy region, Attilio Fontana, lamented on Sunday night “a very serious incident”, caused by a “whirlpool.”

In other Mossad related news, on May 23rd, Israel National News reported that Turkish media outlets indicated that the authorities in the country had arrested 11 members of a Mossad network which followed Iranian targets.

Reports said that the cell had been under surveillance by Turkish authorities for a year and a half, and planned to spy on an Iranian company and 23 individuals in the country who have business connections with Iran, INN reported.

The cell had 15 members, 11 of whom have been arrested.

INN reported that Turkey’s national intelligence organization, MIT, suspected that the cell’s members were trained in Israel and sent to Turkey to create a company which would do business with Iran.

Thus far, none of the individuals arrested were Israelis. INN indicated that the cell’s leader is reported to be Selçuk Küçükkaya, who met with senior Mossad officials in a European country. Mossad representatives presented themselves to him as Khouza, Khorkha, Thomas, Alfonso, and Raoul, the report said.

Turkish media reported that members of the cell documented the Turkish entry and exit information of foreign sources and their family members, eavesdropped on phone conversations, followed their bank accounts and properties, and reported this information to the Israeli Mossad, INN said.

The report also said that two other suspects are being pursued.

On April 9th, INN reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with the head of the Mossad David Barnea, following the report in The New York Times which claimed that “the leadership of the Mossad encouraged the protests against the judicial reform”.

Channel 12 News reported that Netanyahu asked Barnea to respond to the publication, and he explained that it was a wrong analysis on the part of US intelligence officials. The Mossad estimates that the analysis is a result of the approval given by Barnea to lower-ranking Mossad employees to join the protests against the reform.

Netanyahu accepted the explanation provided by Barnea. After that conversation, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement on behalf of the Mossad, denying the report and clarifying that the it was “fundamentally false and unfounded.”

The New York Times report was based on documents leaked from the Pentagon, according to the INN reported. It did not include the names of the specific Mossad officials who allegedly encouraged the protests.

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