Silvio Berlusconi ISIS
Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi has claimed Isis wants to kill him Reuters

Silvio Berlusconi has claimed he tops a hit list of Islamic State's (Isis) targets and will thus avoid public political gatherings for security reasons, sources close to the former Italian prime minister told local media.

The 76-year-old told lieutenants of his Forza Italia party that his ability to campaign in the run-up to the upcoming regional elections has been hampered by threats received by the Islamist group, which will prevent him attending demonstrations out in the open.

"I have been told I could be the target of terror attacks," he was quoted as saying by Italy's state-run broadcaster Rai. "It looks like I'm on top of an IS list."

Berlusconi reportedly made the claim during a meeting of Forza Italia lawmakers at the Italian parliament in Rome held to discuss the centre-right party's strategy ahead of the 31 May vote.

Forza Italia is currently struggling to recover from Berlusconi's personal fall from grace amid scandals and trials, polling at less than 10% nationwide.

It was not immediately clear whether Berlusconi, who recently completed a community service sentence for tax fraud and is banned from elected office, received any direct threats or was informed about them by security officials.

IS, which controls large swathes of Iraq and Syria, has repeatedly boasted about intentions to carry out attacks in Italy and particularly in Rome and against the Vatican, but the flamboyant politician is not known to have been directly singled out yet.

However, both his political past and well-known libertine personal life might have not gone down well with the Islamic extremist group and its strict interpretation of Sharia law.

Berlusconi was at the helm of the country when Italy endorsed the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, providing logistic support first and sending in troops after Saddam Hussein was toppled as part of the subsequent international peace effort.

He was also in charge in 2011 when Nato launched air campaign in Libya to stop late dictator Muammar Gaddafi's deadly crackdown on Arab Spring protesters. Gaddafi, a personal friend of Berlusconi, then accused him of betrayal.

With Isis now taking sway in Libya, both conflicts are used by Isis propaganda as alleged evidence of what they describe as a modern western crusade against Islam, which they claim to be fighting against.