Arsonists attack cars belonging to staff at US air base

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The Independent Online

Three cars belonging to American military personnel at the biggest US air base in southern Europe were attacked by arsonists on Tuesday night and yesterday morning.

Three cars belonging to American military personnel at the biggest US air base in southern Europe were attacked by arsonists on Tuesday night and yesterday morning.

One car was burnt out and two were badly damaged. Nobody was hurt in the attacks, which were launched when the streets were deserted.

Margaret Menzies, who is a spokeswoman for the base at Aviano, near the city of Vicenza in north-east Italy, attempted to play down the incidents. She said: "American automobiles serve as a convenient means to gain media attention and display disapproval with American policy. We believe that, while some Italians may not approve of the American government itself, they are not against Americans in general."

Italian anti-terrorism police have not excluded any possible theories, which, according to Ansa news agency, include the idea that the attacks might be the work of Islamic terrorists, anti-American political militants, or hooligans.

Two of the cars were doused in a fluid and set on fire, while the third was blown up with a crude bomb fashioned from a camping gas canister. Two of the cars were parked near their owners' homes, about half a mile from the base at Aviano, while the third was 12 miles away in the town of Pordenone. All the cars had number plates identifying them as used by US forces in Italy.

In an apparently unrelated incident, the visa-processing office of the US consulate in Rome was closed on Monday after an envelope delivered there was found to contain white powder. The substance was sent away for analysis.

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