x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Anarchists suspected in Rome embassy bombings

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said the attacks represented "a serious threat" against foreign embassies, while Chile's ambassador Oscar Godoy condemned "an absolutely irrational and brutal act of terrorism."

ROME // Bomb blasts in the Chilean and Swiss embassies in Rome injured two staffers on Thursday in a possible attack by anarchists similar to a wave of parcel bombs in Greece last month, officials said.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said the attacks represented "a serious threat" against foreign embassies, while Chile's ambassador Oscar Godoy condemned "an absolutely irrational and brutal act of terrorism."

Police said checks were under way at all the embassies in Rome following the blasts and the city's mayor said emergency services were on the ready.

"This is a wave of terrorism against the embassies. It's more worrying than a single attack," the mayor, Gianni Alemanno, told reporters.

"International lines of inquiry are being followed," Alemanno said.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni was quoted as saying that investigators were following a possible anarchist link behind the attacks "following analogous incidents that happened in November in Greece."

"These are very violent groups present also in Spain and Greece with close links between them," Maroni said.

Prosecutors opened an inquiry for an attack with "terrorist" aims.

The blasts carried echoes of a suspected anarchist far-left plot in Greece last month in which bombs were sent to foreign embassies in Athens and European leaders including the Italian prime minister and the French president.

Over a dozen packages containing explosives were sent in that plot, prompting Greece to suspend international mail for two days. At least four of the packages ignited or exploded, slightly injuring one person.

Thursday's attack left the Swiss mail worker who opened the package in the embassy building seriously injured. The 53-year-old man is reportedly in hospital and risks losing one or both his hands but his life is not in danger.

A Chilean embassy staffer wounded in a second bomb blast shortly after the Swiss embassy explosion is also in hospital but suffered lighter injuries.

"We can't understand why we were attacked in this way. The package was addressed to the cultural office and was opened by the civil servant who injured himself as he opened it," the Chilean ambassador told reporters.

"His life is not in danger but there was blood everywhere," he said.

ANSA news agency quoted a source at the hospital where the two men were being treated that one of them had a metal bolt extracted from his chest.

Dozens of police, firemen and bomb disposal experts could be seen outside the Swiss and Chilean embassies, both located north of the city centre.

There was also a false alarm at the Ukrainian embassy shortly after the two blasts over a suspect package that turned out to be a greeting card.

A spokesman for the US embassy declined to comment on any extra precautions and said: "The US embassy always maintains an appropriate level of security.

Following the Swiss embassy blast, Frattini said: "We express full solidarity with the Swiss ambassador and all diplomatic staff, targetted by a deplorable act of violence that merits the firmest condemnation.

"We hope the injured embassy employee can make a full recovery," he said.

An incendiary device was found outside the Swiss embassy in October, calling for the release of three anarchists arrested in April in Switzerland.

Earlier on Thursday there were two false bomb alerts at local government offices in Rome including one in the heart of the Italian capital.

Mayor Alemanno said there was no link between the alerts and the blasts.

A fake bomb - with wires, an antenna and metal pipes stuffed with powder - was also found on an empty train carriage in Rome's metro system on Tuesday in what police said may have been a threat ahead of protests in the city.