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Explosion rocks Chile embassy in Rome, second blast of day

A pair of package bombs exploded at the Swiss and Chilean embassies in Rome on Thursday, injuring the two people who opened them, police and news reports said. There was no claim of responsibility but authorities discounted domestic anarchists or protesters.

"It's a wave of terrorism against the embassies," Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno told reporters.

Witnesses outside the Chilean embassy said they heard a blast shortly after 3 p.m. CET (9 a.m. ET), sending police to the scene. The ANSA news agency said the person who opened the package was wounded. It is not known whether he is a diplomat.

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Three hours earlier, a package bomb exploded inside an office in the Swiss Embassy, seriously wounding the staffer who opened it. He was taken to the hospital with hand injuries, but his life is not in danger, the Swiss ambassador Bernardino Regazzoni said.

Corriere della Sera newspaper said the Chilean embassy staffer's injuries were "not serious" after the blast near Villa Borghese in central Rome.

Mayor Alemanno, speaking outside the Swiss Embassy, said the motive of the Swiss attack appeared to be international as opposed to domestic in nature.

In November, parcel bombs containing tiny amounts of explosives targeted a host of embassies in Athens, including those of Belgium, Mexico, Chile, Germany, France, Switzerland, Bulgaria and Russia. One package even reached the office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Most of the 14 packages, all using tiny amounts of explosives, were intercepted by police and destroyed, but a delivery service employee suffered minor burns in a small blast.

A Greek militant group claimed responsibility for the spate of parcel bombings.

Foreign diplomats in Rome said they can't remember a time in recent years when an embassy in Rome had been bombed. They said that security personnel at their own embassies would be urged to take extra vigilance in examining postal deliveries.

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"The [Swiss]ambassador is still on site, the embassy has not been evacuated," Maurizio Mezzavilla, a spokesman for the Carabinieri, Italy's paramilitary police told reporters at the scene.

"The man is an employee of the [Swiss]embassy, he was injured while he was opening a package received in the mailroom which blew up in his hands," Mr. Mezzavilla told reporters.

He said bomb disposal experts were checking the building, which is located in Parioli, a wealthy neighbourhood just north of the city centre. The Swiss consulate in Milan has been put under extra security, following the Rome blast.

The spokesman for the Swiss Foreign Ministry, Lars Knuchel, said that so far no one had claimed responsibility for the act.

Rome's police chief Francesco Tagliente says reports of a suspicious package at Ukraine's embassy was a false alarm. ANSA says police are conducting checks at all embassies in the capital.

The explosions follow the discovery of a rudimentary device in an empty underground train in Rome on Tuesday. However, police said that device lacked a detonator and tests showed it contained no explosives.

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Italy has witnessed anti-government protests across the country in the past week, with Rome the scene of some of the most violent clashes but there was no indication that Thursday's explosions were in any way linked to the demonstrations.

There have been growing concerns in Europe about holiday season attacks following a suicide bombing in Sweden and security services' fears of an assault on a European city modeled on the deadly shooting spree in Mumbai, India.

With files from Jill Mahoney, Reuters, AP, AFP

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About the Author
European Columnist

Eric Reguly is the European columnist for The Globe and Mail and is based in Rome. Since 2007, when he moved to Europe, he has primarily covered economic and financial stories, ranging from the euro zone crisis and the bank bailouts to the rise and fall of Russia's oligarchs and the merger of Fiat and Chrysler. More

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