Bomb blasts hit Swiss, Chilean embassies in Rome

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Bomb blasts in the Chilean and Swiss embassies in Rome injured two staffers on Thursday, officials said, as Italian prosecutors opened an investigation into a suspected "attack with terrorist aims."

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said the attacks represented "a serious threat" against foreign embassies in the Italian capital. "We are talking about parcel bombs that in at least two cases exploded," he told reporters.

Frattini also warned Italian embassies around the world to be on alert.

Police said checks were under way at all the embassies in Rome following the blasts and the city's mayor said emergency services were on the ready.

"This is a wave of terrorism against the embassies. It's more worrying than a single attack," the mayor, Gianni Alemanno, told reporters.

"International lines of inquiry are being followed," Alemanno said.

The Rome prosecutor's office was quoted by ANSA news agency as saying it had opened an inquiry for "an attack with terrorist aims."

Italian news reports said investigators were looking into a possible anarchist link to the blasts as well as the "eco-terrorist movement."

An incendiary device was found outside the Swiss embassy in October, calling for the release of three anarchists arrested in April in Switzerland.

The attacks carried echoes of a suspected anarchist far-left plot in Greece last month in which bombs were sent to foreign embassies in Athens and European leaders including the Italian prime minister and the French president.

Over a dozen packages containing explosives were sent in that plot, prompting Greece to suspend international mail for two days. At least four of the packages ignited or exploded, slightly injuring a Mexican embassy employee.

Thursday's attack left the Swiss mail worker who opened the package in the embassy building seriously injured. The 53-year-old man is reportedly in hospital and risks losing one or both his hands but his life is not in danger.

A Chilean embassy staffer wounded in a second bomb blast shortly after the Swiss embassy explosion is also in hospital but is reported to have suffered lighter injuries. The phone line to the Chilean embassy was not working.

Police, firemen and bomb disposal experts could be seen outside the Swiss and Chilean embassies, both located north of the city centre.

There was also a false alarm at the Ukrainian embassy shortly after the blasts over a suspect package that turned out to be a greeting card.

A spokesman for the US embassy declined to comment on any extra precautions and said: "The us embassy always maintains an appropriate level of security.

Following the Swiss embassy blast, Frattini said: "We express full solidarity with the Swiss ambassador and all diplomatic staff, targetted by a deplorable act of violence that merits the firmest condemnation.

"We hope the injured embassy employee can make a full recovery," he said.

Earlier on Thursday there were two false bomb alerts at local government offices in Rome including one in the heart of the Italian capital.

Mayor Alemanno said there was no link between the alerts and the blasts.

A fake bomb -- with wires, an antenna and metal pipes stuffed with powder -- was also found on an empty train carriage in Rome's metro system on Tuesday in what police said may have been a threat ahead of protests in the city.

© 2010 AFP

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