Woman to head Italy’s secret services for the first time

Photo: EPA Elisabetta Belloni

Italian secret services will have a new head, and for the first time a woman was chosen to fill the post, news wires reported. PM Mario Draghi announced on Wednesday that Elisabetta Belloni will become the Department of Information Security (DIS) new chief. The department oversees the foreign and domestic intelligence services and reports directly to the government.

Belloni, a former ambassador, has a long career of firsts, according to the BBC. Born in 1958, she became one of the first girls to join the prestigious, and formerly exclusively male, Massimiliano Massimo Institute in Rome, where PM Draghi also studied. After serving as a diplomat in Vienna and Bratislava, she went on to lead the Italian foreign ministry's crisis unit from 2004 to 2008, the first time a woman had held the role.

During this time, she had to deal with Italian nationals killed or injured abroad, including kidnappings in Afghanistan and Iraq, and oversee the rescue operations for Italians affected by the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. Belloni rose up within the ranks to become the first woman in the role of secretary-general of the foreign ministry - Italy's highest diplomatic post, and a position she has held ever since.

Her appointment as spy chief was now welcomed by most Italian politicians, including League party leader Matteo Salvini, who described her as "a woman of courage".

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