Two teenage American tourists have admitted the fatal stabbing of an Italian police officer in Rome, Italian police have said.

Mario Cerciello Rega, 35, died early on Friday morning after being stabbed eight times.

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The American suspects, both aged 19, were detained for alleged murder and attempted extortion.

Mr Cerciello Rega, a deputy brigadier in the Carabinieri, had gone to meet the suspects after an alleged drug dealer complained they had stolen his bag with a mobile phone in it.

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The tourists had snatched the bag after the man apparently gave them “a different substance” instead of the cocaine they thought they were buying, an unnamed Italian investigator said.

The Americans demanded a €100 (£89) ransom and a gram of cocaine to return the bag, prompting the man to tell police he had arranged to meet the alleged thieves to get his bag and phone back.

But a scuffle broke out at the rendezvous and the policeman was stabbed eight times. He died shortly afterwards in hospital.

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Police said they quickly identified the suspects using CCTV and witnesses, tracking them down to a hotel near the scene and finding them “ready to leave” the country.

Officers found what they believe may be the murder weapon, a long knife, hidden behind a panel in the room’s ceiling along with clothes the two apparently were wearing during the attack.

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Confronted by what detectives called “hard evidence”, the Americans confessed during overnight questioning by prosecutors.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has offered his condolences on Twitter, describing the dead Carabinieri officer as “a hero, a boy with all his life ahead”.

Flowers were left for Mr Rega at the scene of his death and police held a service in his honour on Friday. His funeral is scheduled for Monday.

Mr Cerciello Rega had married only 40 days before.

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