December 24, 2010 in Nation/World

Rome embassies hit by mail bombs

Swiss, Chilean sites targeted; anarchists claim responsibility
Frances D’Emilio Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

A bomb expert arrives at the Ukrainian Embassy in Rome on Thursday, after blasts at other embassies earlier.
(Full-size photo)

ROME – Mail bombs exploded in the hands of employees at the Swiss and Chilean embassies in Rome on Thursday, seriously wounding two people and triggering heightened security checks at diplomatic missions just as holiday deliveries deluge their mailrooms.

Italian investigators suspected the attacks were the work of anarchists, similar to the two-day wave of mail bombs that targeted several embassies in Athens last month – including those of Chile and Switzerland. One of last month’s booby-trapped packages, addressed to Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, was intercepted in Italy.

Late Thursday night, the Italian news agency ANSA reported that a claim by anarchists was found in a small box near one of the wounded employees, and was being examined by anti-terrorism police squad.

Anti-terrorism police at Rome police headquarters refused to comment on the claim, which ANSA said was made by a group called the Informal Anarchist Federation, or FAI.

“Long live FAI, long live anarchy,” the claim reportedly said.

Anarchists were blamed by authorities last week for bloody clashes between protesters and police in Rome that marred otherwise peaceful demonstrations by students against a university reform law. The legislation received final approval in parliament Thursday.

For Thursday’s twin embassy mail bombs, less than three hours apart, Italian investigators are pursuing the “trail of anarchists-insurrectionists,” Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, whose ministry includes anti-terrorist police, told reporters. “Various elements lead us to think that this is the correct path.”

Tens of thousands of tourists and pilgrims have been pouring into Rome this week for Christmas ceremonies at the Vatican. Since the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States in 2001, security has been tight at public ceremonies in St. Peter’s Basilica and Square, with the faithful subject to metal detector checks and purse and backpack inspections.

Swiss Ambassador Bernardino Regazzoni, speaking to reporters outside his embassy, said the device that exploded had been mailed, but he didn’t say from where.

The bomb at the Chilean Embassy was mailed from inside Italy, ANSA reported. But Chilean Ambassador Oscar Godoy said it wasn’t yet clear if the package – a medium-size envelope big enough to hold documents and addressed to the cultural attache – had been mailed or delivered by a messenger.

“There were no flames, just a little smoke,” said Godoy.

The bombs seemed aimed to injure if not maim or kill those opening them.

Surgeons removed an iron bolt that had embedded itself in the chest of the Chilean Embassy employee who opened the package. The Chilean also suffered a serious hand wound and face injuries, and risks losing the sight in one eye. The Swiss official suffered hand and chest wounds.

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