Embassy blasts rock Rome ahead of Christmas (Third Lead)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

ROME - Two people were injured Thursday in separate, but similar, bomb blasts at the Swiss and Chilean embassies in Rome.

It was not immediately clear if the attacks were linked, police said.

In the first incident, which took place around midday, a parcel exploded in the hands of 53-year-old Swiss man employed in the mailing department of his country’s embassy in the Italian capital.

The man was taken to Rome’s Umberto I hospital for treatment, including to a badly damaged left hand which may need to be amputated, reports said.

A few hours later, another package, exploded at the Chilean embassy, injuring an official. The man was “not in danger” and was “in a good condition,” Chilean ambassador Oscar Godoy said.

Italian authorities subsequently announced that controls would be carried out at various foreign embassies which, in the meantime, were also warned to be on the lookout for any suspicious parcels or activity at their premises.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said he had issued a similar alert to Italian embassies abroad.

Frattini also said it was “premature” to say who was responsible for the attacks, and cautioned against spreading “alarmist” reactions.

In his nation’s capital, Santiago, Chilean Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno said: “We do not know where the attacks are coming from.”

He noted that he saw no connection between the countries that were targeted.

Chile would reinforce security in all its diplomatic missions, although “everything seems to be circumscribed to Rome”, Moreno said.

Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno said the incidents represented “a wave of terrorism … something more disturbing than a single attack”.

Earlier, speaking in the aftermath of the blast at the Swiss embassy, Alemanno said investigators were following “international leads”, and that the attack was not connected to domestic Italian politics.

Alemanno did not elaborate further, but news reports said supporters of anarchists - including several Italian nationals - held in Swiss prisons, may have been responsible for the attack on the Swiss embassy.

Italian police declined to comment on the reports.

The Swiss ambassador to Italy, Bernardino Regazzoni, said his embassy had already been targeted in October when a “rudimentary” explosive device had been found near a wall surrounding the embassy compound, situated in Rome’s northern Parioli district.

“At the moment there has been no claim of responsibility (for Thursday’s attack),” Regazzoni said.

In Berlin, the German foreign ministry said it had stepped up security at its embassy in Rome. A spokesman declined to give details, but said German embassies generally operated under tight security.

Thursday’s attacks in Rome came a month after a series of parcel bombs were sent to embassies and European leaders from Greece.

The majority of those 14 packages were intercepted by police and destroyed, including some addressed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which arrived at the chancellery office in Berlin, and others to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, found inside a cargo plane at Bologna Airport.

Greek police have subsequently arrested several members of the left-wing terrorist group, Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei, which was allegedly behind the attacks.

Filed under: Terrorism

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