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Blasts shake embassies in Rome

A man was seriously injured when a bomb exploded at the Swiss embassy in Rome

(Keystone)

A pair of package bombs exploded at the Swiss and Chilean embassies in Rome within hours of each other on Thursday, wounding two people.

The Swiss ambassador to Italy, Bernardino Regazzoni, said a Swiss mail clerk suffered serious injuries to his left hand as he opened a package around noon, but his life was not in danger.























"Investigations are ongoing but I can recall, without attributing any responsibility, some episodes of a similar nature in the recent past," Regazzoni said.

An Italian anarchist group calling itself the Informal Anarchist Federation had claimed responsibility for the attacks in a message found in a small box next to where one of the packages had exploded.

"We have decided to once again make our voices heard with words and deeds," the note read. "We are destroying the system of government."

Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno called the attack "a wave of terrorism against embassies, something much more worrisome than a single attack."

High alert

The 53-year-old Swiss injured in the blast was taken to hospital where doctors said they would work to save what they could of the man’s hand. Doctors said later on Thursday that the man would neither lose his hand nor suffer long-term damage.

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey sent her deepest sympathies to the injured and condemned the “insidious and unforgivable” act.

Italian police and emergency workers gathered at the scene mid-day as other embassies in the capital went on high-alert. Italian and embassy police scoured diplomatic missions in the city looking for other devices.

Three hours after the Swiss embassy explosion, a Chilean embassy worker suffered injuries to his arm and eye when a package addressed to the embassy's cultural office detonated there. Doctors also removed an iron bolt from his chest. Police then rushed to the Ukrainian embassy in Rome to investigate another suspicious package. That one turned out to be harmless.

The German foreign ministry expressed its sympathies with the injured. The Italians called the attack a “deplorable act of violence” against the Swiss.

Connections?

Italian media noted that several Italian anarchists are currently in Swiss jails. Three people  – two Italians and a Swiss – were arrested on April 15 in Zurich on suspicions of having prepared a bomb attack on IBM’s Swiss headquarters in Rüschlikon.

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. The bombs used on Thursday were similar to those found at 14 embassies in Greece early in November.

Not all of those devices exploded and no one was injured. A package left at the Swiss embassy in Athens burst into flames but no one was hurt.

Other packages detonated at the Russian embassy there. Two more parcels detonated in the cargo area of Athens International Airport. Police found more bombs bound for German, Bulgarian and Chilean diplomats.

Swiss-Italian relations

The large Italian community in Switzerland of about 500,000, including those with dual citizenship, and the approximately 48,000 Swiss nationals living in Italy form an important basis for the close relations between Italy and Switzerland.

Switzerland was a destination for many Italian emigrants even in the 19th century. In the period immediately before the First World War, more than one third of all foreigners living in Switzerland were of Italian origin; between 1950 and 1970 this figure reached about one half.

Still today the Italian community is the largest group of foreigners in Switzerland. Italians are active in all walks of life in Switzerland and are an important part of our pluralistic culture. The Swiss community in Italy has also grown since the end of the Second World War; there are more Swiss schools in Italy than in any other country in the world (Rome, Milan, Bergamo, Catania). (source: Swiss foreign ministry)

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