- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2004

Two leading European Union parliamentarians yesterday became the latest targets of an international string of letter bombings, as antiterrorism experts huddled in Rome in an effort to halt the attacks.

A shadowy, Italian-based group calling itself the “Informal Anarchist Federation” is believed to be responsible for the weeklong string of postal attacks, casting new light on various far-left and antiglobalization groups that have attacked the European Union and other international institutions as antidemocratic.

Neither Hans-Gert Poettering, a German who heads the Brussels-based European Parliament’s largest conservative faction, nor Gary Titley, head of the center-left British Labor Party’s delegation in the parliament, was injured in the latest bombings.

No one has been hurt by the booby-trapped parcels, which contain a flammable substance engineered to ignite when opened.

The attacks constitute “a criminal conspiracy against democracy,” said European Parliament Speaker Pat Cox, as the assembly moved to increase its security screening.

The first letter bomb targeted EU President Romano Prodi Dec. 27 at his home in Bologna, Italy, the city from which all of the letter bombs were apparently mailed in the week before Christmas.

Over the next three days, identical packages were intercepted targeting European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet and the officials in charge of the EU’s main police and judicial agencies in The Hague.

Police said yesterday that at least three other suspicious packages had been discovered as EU officials and parliamentarians returned to work from the holiday season, including another letter bomb addressed to a Spanish member of parliament.

Specialists from Italy, Spain, Greece and France met in Rome yesterday to discuss the attacks and the new anarchist group believed to be behind them.

The Informal Anarchist Federation shares the Italian initials of a well-known Northern Italy anarchist group, but the Italian Anarchists Federation in an Internet statement condemned the attacks as counterproductive and denied any role in the bombings.

The Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica published excerpts from a manifesto issued by the organization after two small explosions occurred near Mr. Prodi’s home the week before the first letter bombs were delivered.

“Today, we have hit at the apparatus of control that is repressive and leading the democratic spectacle that is the new European order,” the group claimed.

Italy was the scene of some violent clashes between police and anarchist groups during the 2002 Group of Eight summit in Genoa.

Italian authorities in October arrested nine members of the leftist guerrilla organization the Red Brigades, but warned that other violent anarchists groups may exploit the vacuum created by the crackdown.

Italian Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisano said investigators believe the Bologna-based operatives behind the EU attacks have allies in France, Germany, Greece, Spain and Switzerland.

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