updated 12/24/2010 7:31:14 PM ET 2010-12-25T00:31:14

Anarchists who sent mail bombs to the Rome embassies of Chile and Switzerland wanted to avenge blows by those countries against their movement, according to a top Italian security official.

Bomb experts were sent to other embassies in the Italian capital Friday because embassy employees nervous about opening a flood of holiday mail called police to inspect packages, Rome police chief Francesco Tagliente said Friday. No new devices had been found.

Manila envelopes about the size of a videocassette case exploded at the Chilean and Swiss embassies when they were opened about two hours apart Thursday, seriously wounding an employee at each mission who handle mail. A Chilean man lost two fingers and risked the loss of vision in one eye while a Swiss Embassy employee had serious hand injuries, doctors said.

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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 recent arrests of Swiss and Italian anarchists.

A Swiss man and two Italian men suspected of being "eco-terrorists" trying to organize an attack against an IBM research center were arrested in April near Zurich, Italian news reports said. Turin daily La Stampa reported that authorities searching the men's car found explosives and a pamphlet denouncing the multinational's research.

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, Mauricio Morales, who was killed when a bomb in a backpack he was carrying blew up in Santiago in 2009.

La Stampa, reporting from Santiago, said that last summer Chilean authorities identified an Italian as being the financial backer of Chilean anarchist groups suspected in a series of attacks against barracks, churches and financial institutions.

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.

Thursday's bombs were sent from within Italy, authorities said.

Security officials said that an Italian group calling itself the Informal Anarchist Federation claimed responsibility. The group has a Facebook page, with 33 members. The page is mainly blank except for the slogan in Italian "Basta destra e basta sinistra solo ANARCHIA!" ("Enough of the right and enough of the left only ANARCHY!").

The page carried a stark black-and-white letter "A" over a circle, which carried the slogan in English "There's no government like no government."

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.

Investigators immediately suspected anarchists-insurrectionists "because only this sphere mainly uses package bombs, in a serial, repetitive way," Mantovano said.

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 Friday that a neighborhood station of Carabinieri paramilitary police in Rome received a package bomb two months ago that was claimed by the Informal Anarchist Federation.

The blasts at the embassies didn't seem to be discouraging tourists and pilgrims who trudged through a chilly downpour in Rome to admire a life-size nativity scene in St. Peter's Square and to Piazza Navona to buy last-minute gifts at traditional outdoor holiday stalls.

"If you live with fear, you'll never leave your home," said Angela Zanca, a middle-aged woman visiting from Sicily with her husband as they huddled under umbrellas in St. Peter's Square.

Beatrice Capobianco, a 25-year-old Roman, said she comes every Christmas Eve to the square but she will skip the evening Mass in the basilica led by the pope.

"I try to avoid large crowded public spaces as much as possible," she said, citing a scare Tuesday in the city when a suspicious package with wires and powder but no trigger was found under a subway seat. Police later determined the powder wasn't explosives.

Benedict XVI lights a candle for peace in his window overlooking the square a few hours before the Mass.


Nicholas Paphitis contributed from Athens and Valentina Chiarini from Rome.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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