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Manganelli said there were “shadows” of doubt clouding the hypothesis that the school blast was caused by organized crime because the Sicilian-based Mafia usually targets precise individuals. Still, he said, neither the hypotheses of organized crime nor that of subversives have been ruled out.

Outside the school, textbooks and notebooks, their pages fluttering in the breeze, and a backpack littered the street near where the bomb exploded. At the sound of the blast, students already inside the school ran outside to see what had happened.

Officials initially said the bomb was in a trash bin outside the school, but later ANSA, reporting from Brindisi, said the device had been placed on a low wall ringing the building. The wall was damaged and charred from the blast. Sky TG24 said the device included three containers of fuel. It was unclear if the blast was triggered by a remote control or by a timer.

Public high schools in Italy hold classes on Saturday mornings.

A school official, Valeria Vitale, told Sky that most of the pupils were females. The school specializes in training for jobs in fashion and social services, she said.

The bombing follows a number of attacks against Italian officials and government or public buildings by a group of anarchists, which prompted authorities this week to assign bodyguards to 550 individuals, and deploy 16,000 law enforcement officers nationwide.

Minister Cancellieri indicated that after the school blast, authorities’ sense of possible targets had been tested.

“Anything now could be a ‘sensitive’ target,” she said, adding that the “economic crisis doesn’t help.” Austerity measures, spending cuts and new and higher taxes, all part of economist Monti’s plan to save Italy from succumbing to the debt crisis roiling Greece, have angered many citizens, and social tensions have ratcheted up.

Brindisi is a lively port town in Puglia, the region in the southeastern “heel” of the Italian boot-shaped peninsula. An organized crime syndicate known as the Sacred United Crown has been traditionally active there, but crackdowns have been widely considered by authorities to have lessened the organization’s power.

The brother of the slain anti-Mafia prosecutor , Alfredo Morvillo, a prosecutor in Sicily, told reporters in Tuscany at a ceremony to honor his slain sister and brother-in-law that the “Mafia angle is, at the moment, the most credible,” ANSA quoted him as saying

“I say that because of the place and the timing,” ANSA reported, in reference to both the name of the school and the many memorial services for the 1992 attack that were being held on Saturday.

Brindisi’s mayor, Mimmo Consales, said an anti-Mafia procession was due to pass near the school Saturday evening. But Manganelli noted that many such memorial ceremonies were scheduled to be held on Saturday throughout Italy.