A Fiat car packed with 100kg of explosives blew up in the narrow Via dei Pulci at the back of the west wing of the museum, killing a family of four, including a nine-month-old baby, and two neighbours. Three paintings were destroyed - two by Bartolomeo Manfredi, a disciple of the Renaissance master Caravaggio, Scene of Life and The Good Adventure, and one by the Flemish painter Gherardo delle Notti, The Nativity of Christ. The Death of Adonis by Sebastiano del Piombo - a follower of Michelangelo - was severely damaged. Thirty other paintings were damaged, including one Rubens and one Van Dyck, but almost all the most important works in the museum's collection - which attracts about a million visitors a year - were unscathed. The museum, whose structure may also be damaged, was closed to the public.
'Not even the Nazis did anything like this,' said the Treasury Minister, Piero Barucci. The Interior Minister, Nicola Mancino, who visited the spot last night with the Prime Minister, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, said it was 'very likely' the work of the Mafia, which he also suspects of having planted the car bomb in Rome two weeks ago. It was 'a powerful attempt at intimidation', he said.
If he is correct it was the worst Mafia crime since the bomb attack that killed the anti-Mafia judge Paolo Borsellino and five bodyguards in Sicily last July. But others, including the ex-Communists, the Greens, and the anti-Mafia group La Rete, suggested that other murky forces who have bombed and massacred in Italy for political purposes in the past may be doing so again.
Alessandro Curzi, head of the third television channel, suggested in a commentary it could be members of the P2 masonic network - whose aim before it was broken up in the 1980s was to take over the state - or corrupted sections of the secret services. The aim could be to destabilise the country and prevent the revolution in Italian political life from succeeding and bringing clean politics.
At first the blast was thought to be caused by a gas leak. Then traces of explosive and the deep crater in the street were found and Pier Luigi Vigna, the Florence public prosecutor, declared it was obviously a 'strategy of terror . . .'.
The Prime Minister declared: 'All the forces of the state will be mobilised to destroy this terrorism.'
While workmen carried the first paintings out from the damaged wing. the Uffizi's director, Anna Maria Petrioli Toffani, said the museum would have to be closed for the time being and many works removed to prevent them being damaged by rain coming through the smashed windows and skylights.
'The damage would have been much worse if the security glass on many of the paintings had not done its job well,' she said. 'I think we will be able to reopen at least part of the museum again fairly soon.'
The bomb struck just as the main tourist season was beginning and the mayor of Florence, Giorgio Morales, said: 'To close the Uffizi would do irreparable damage to the whole of Italy.'
It will be some time before the precise extent of the damage done to Italy yesterday is known.
Heritage torn apart, page 10
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