- Associated Press - Thursday, December 23, 2010

ROME (AP) — 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 deluged 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.

Anarchists also 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 the anti-terrorist police, told reporters. “Various elements lead us to think that this is the correct path.”

“These are very violent groups that are also present in Spain and Greece and are very well connected,” the minister said.

A Carabinieri paramilitary police officer rings the bell at the entrance of the Swiss Embassy in Rome on Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010, where a package exploded and wounded an embassy staffer, police said. (AP Photo/Angelo Carconi)
A Carabinieri paramilitary police officer rings the bell at the entrance of ... more >

In Athens, Greek law enforcement officials said that Greek anti-terror police were contacted in the evening by Italian colleagues but that no link with the Greek parcel bombs was immediately apparent.

Rome police Chief Francesco Tagliente, rushing to the Chilean diplomatic mission, said all embassies in the city were being alerted.

For about an hour, it seemed as if the Ukrainian Embassy, a few blocks away from the Chilean Embassy, had received a package bomb. But Chief Tagliente said checks showed that the suspicious package there was a “false alarm.”

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 St. Peter’s 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, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. But Chilean Ambassador Oscar Godoy said it wasn’t yet clear if the package — a medium-sized 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,” Mr. Godoy said.

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, said Massimiliano Talucci, a spokesman for Umberto Polyclinic I, where the man was hospitalized. 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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