Rally against Italian high-speed rail link turns violent

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A small group of protestors stormed a tunnel work site on Sunday, injuring dozens police said, as opposition to a high speed rail link through northern Italy again turned violent.

Scuffles between protestors and a heavy police presence continued throughout the day, with a steady exchange of tear gas, stones and molotov cocktails.

Police said 30 officers were injured and five protestors arrested, blaming the disruption on hundreds of masked leftist "black block" extremists from Italy and neighbouring countries.

A protestor and a tunnel worker were also injured in the clashes, police said.

Protest organisers said tens of thousands of demonstrators had gathered peacefully from surrounding regions to stop the construction of a tunnel in the Susa valley near Turin.

But a small band broke away from the main group of protestors to enter the gated work site guarded by hundreds of police.

Police were out in force on Sunday as authorities expected more trouble from radical groups within the protest movement after similar clashes last week.

On June 27, 25 policemen and four protestors were slightly injured in clashes when a demonstration at the same spot turned violent and police responded with tear gas.

Before Sunday's events, the leader of the "No Tav" (No to the high-speed train) movement, Alberto Perino, said demonstrators would have "bare hands and clean hands, against those whose hands are neither bare nor clean".

Twenty-three local mayors are against the project, signed by Italy and France in 2001, to build the high-speed link, which would slice three hours off the current seven-hour journey time between Paris and Milan.

Work on the main 58-kilometre (36-mile) tunnel, of which 12 kilometres are in Italy, is scheduled to begin in 2013. It is to go into service around 2023.

© 2011 AFP

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