ROME — Anarchists who sent mail bombs to the Rome embassies of Chile and Switzerland wanted to avenge actions by those countries against their movement, a top Italian security official said Friday.
Manila envelopes about the size of a videocassette case exploded when they were opened Thursday, about two hours apart, seriously wounding one employee at each mission. One man could lose the vision in one eye; the other a hand.
Although the twin blasts almost immediately seemed inspired by a spate of parcel bomb mailings by anarchists in Greece last month, Greek police pointed out that the attacks there seemed not intended to cause injury — and none was caused. In contrast, the Italian attacks seemed intent on at least seriously wounding whoever opened the envelopes, since at least one of the devices contained an iron bolt that shot into the chest of one of the employees.
Alfredo Mantovano, interior ministry undersecretary, said on Italian state radio that the anti-terrorism police say the Swiss were targeted because intensified Swiss-Italian cooperation led to the recent arrest of several anarchists.
Meanwhile, "Chile was the theater of the death of an anarchist who became a kind of myth for that world" of anarchy, Mantovano said. He was referring to a Chilean anarchist who was killed when a bomb he was carrying blew up in Santiago in 2009.
Italian media also reported that a claim found at one of the embassies cited the name of Lambros Fountas, a Greek anarchist who was killed in a shootout with police in March.
Thurday's bombs were sent from within Italy, authorities said.
Security offficials said that an Italian group calling itself Informal Anarchist Federation claimed responsibility. In the past decade the group has claimed several booby-trapped packages or envelopes sent to authorities in Italy.
Among those targets was Romano Prodi, a former Italian premier and European Commission chief. Prodi was uninjured by a package that burst into flames when he opened it at his Bologna home during the 2003 Christmas holiday season.
Other Italian targets of anarchists in recent years have been prison officials, police headquarters and city halls.
Mantovano said security was being tightened at "possible targets" including embassies, detention centers for clandestine migrants, prisons and police stations.
Rome daily La Repubblica reported on Friday that a neighborhood station of Carabinieri paramilitary police in Rome received a package bomb two months ago that was claimed by Informal Anarchist Federation.
Nicholas Paphitis contributed from Athens.