- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 17, 2001

GENOA, Italy — A letter bomb blew up in the hands of a police officer yesterday, seriously wounding him and fueling fears of violence at a summit that will bring world leaders to Genoa this week.

Hours later, a second mail bomb blast ripped one policeman's arm off and wounded another in Avezzano, hundreds of miles away, state television reported. Deputy Prime Minister Gianfranco Fini said the explosions were not linked.

In Genoa, where leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized nations begin a three-day summit Friday, an envelope exploded just after a postal carrier delivered it to a neighborhood station of the Carabinieri, Italy's paramilitary police force.

The officer, a young man whose name was not released, was wounded in the hands and one eye. He underwent surgery and risks losing sight in the eye, officials said.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility, said a Carabinieri spokesman, Maurizio Riu. Groups that plan protests during the G-8 summit condemned the violence.

The bomb in Avezzano, in central Italy's Abruzzo region, also exploded in a police station. Investigators said it was linked to an extortion attempt on a local businessman with no connection to Genoa.

Police in Genoa said the force of the blast left them with little evidence. The envelope was practically destroyed and it was not clear whether investigators would be able to make out the postmark, the Italian news agency ANSA said.

Genoa is edgy about the summit, which is to bring the leaders of the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia to the northwestern port city. Tens of thousands of protesters, including some who have threatened violence, are also expected.

Interior Minister Claudio Scajola said the bomb was meant to heighten tensions in advance of the summit, but he insisted it wouldn't work.

"The state and the forces of order have steady nerves," he said.

He said the bomb demonstrated the necessity for the heavy security measures the government plans, including shutting the city's train station and docks before and during the summit and sealing off the summit site to all but summit delegates, journalists, residents and those who work nearby.

Thousands of extra police and soldiers are being deployed in Genoa and Italy imposed special border controls over the weekend, hoping to turn aside demonstrators.

Yesterday, grates were put up to block alleys leading to Genoa's port area and other summit sites.

"I don't see why we have to be put in cages like animals," a resident shouted as state TV filmed the grates being put into place.

The Genoa Social Forum, an umbrella organization of anti-globalization groups that plan protests, condemned the blast and called it an attempt to discredit demonstrators already gathering for the summit.

Genoa was jittery yesterday as bomb squads raced to check out several reports of suspicious objects, all false alarms.

A bomb squad destroyed a van that had been parked for several days in front of the provincial command station of the Carabinieri in central Genoa. Mr. Riu said the vehicle was destroyed as a precaution.

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