L`Aquila: The Italian government has ordered the closure of a group on the social networking website, Facebook, calling for the death of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, an official said on Thursday.
Interior Minister Roberto Maroni also indicated that members of the group, "Let`s Kill Berlusconi", would be reported to the judiciary.
On Thursday, more than 17,000 members were registered to the group which appears on the Facebook category "Just for Fun - Outlandish Statements".
"I believe that not one country in the world exists where someone can write `let`s kill the premier` on a website," Maroni said, speaking at a press conference in the central city of L`Aquila.
"It amounts to defending a crime. Even worse, it is a problem of culture if someone can write such things with impunity. There exists the risk that they may act them out," Maroni added.
Earlier, the head of the main centre-left opposition Democratic Party, Dario Franceschini - himself a target on Facebook by hostile groups - said he favoured shutting down the anti-Berlusconi site.
Maroni`s announcement came a day after Justice Minister Angelino Alfano said he was "deeply disturbed", by the "dangerous threats" made against Berlusconi on several groups and forums on Facebook.
A Facebook search on Thursday revealed the existence of dozens of anti-Berlusconi groups, written mostly in Italian.
These included one called: "Let`s kill Berlusconi by bludgeoning or stoning him to death", made up of over 300 members.
In contrast, another group made up of some 1,400 members and called "Please let`s not kill Berlusconi", contained a retouched photograph making the billionaire-turned-politician appear in a Christ-like pose.
The row is not the first involving Facebook and Italian authorities, who have condemned postings by groups supporting the Sicilian mafia.
These have included those calling for the release from jail of Cosa Nostra boss Toto Riina, who is serving multiple life sentences for murder and other crimes.