- Associated Press - Thursday, December 23, 2010

ROME | 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 deluge 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 Prime Minister 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 a “trail of anarchists-insurrectionists,” said Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, whose ministry includes anti-terrorist police. “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.

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

Rome’s 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 Chile’s 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 terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001, security has been tight at public ceremonies in St. Peter’s Basilica and 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.