Package bombs explode at Swiss, Chilean embassies in Rome, injuring two
Thursday, December 23, 2010; 10:06 PM
ROME - An Italian anarchist group asserted responsibility for package bombs that exploded Thursday at the Swiss and Chilean embassies in Rome, injuring two office workers, prompting a citywide inspection of diplomatic missions and raising the level of anxiety across a continent that has suffered a spike in violence heading into the holidays.
A large envelope exploded at noon local time at the Swiss Embassy, seriously wounding the 53-year-old Swiss national who opened it, according to Agostino Vitolo, a spokesman for the Carabinieri paramilitary police in Rome. Vitolo said the victim sustained serious injuries and underwent surgery at a local hospital.
Another package bomb exploded at the Chilean Embassy at 2:27 p.m. local time, injuring the hands and face of Cesar Mella, the administrative official who opened it, according to Sonia Di Clemente, a spokeswoman for Rome's police department. Chilean officials said Mella had part of his hand blown off and suffered minor injuries to his eyes and abdomen.
"We don't know where the bomb came from or the reasons why it was sent," Chilean Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno said in Santiago, Chile.
Police released a note written in Italian that they said had been stuck to the victim's clothes by the Informal Anarchist Federation, or FAI, an Italian insurrectionary organization. The note read, "We have decided to make our voice heard with words and with facts, we will destroy the system of dominance, long live the FAI, long live Anarchy."
A suspicious package reported by the Ukrainian Embassy turned out to be a false alarm, according to the police.
Immediately after the attacks, police investigators and Italian Foreign Ministry officials began checking all the embassies and consulates in Rome for suspicious packages. The U.S. Embassy did not require any additional or expanded measures "because we already had appropriate security measures in place," said Paula Thiede, a spokeswoman for the mission.
Rome has been on edge since violent protesters infiltrated a large rally against the government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi last week and clashed with authorities on the capital's streets, torched cars, damaged banks in the city center and beat a police officer.
Rome's mayor, Gianni Alemanno, characterized the city's embassies Thursday as under siege. "It's a wave of terrorism against embassies, something much more worrisome than a single attack," Alemanno said outside the Swiss Embassy.
"We are following the anarchist trail," Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told reporters Thursday evening.
Italy has a record of anarchist activity, and Roman prosecutors have long-running investigations in place targeting anarchist elements inside the country. The parcel that exploded at the Chilean Embassy bore an Italian return address, according to the Italian news service ANSA.
The timing of the explosions - shortly before the holiday season and close upon a recent spate of violence in Italy and throughout the continent - seemed likely to exacerbate Europeans' nervousness.