Austrian hunt for bombers

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VIENNA (Reuter) - Austrian police yesterday hunted right-wing extremists, who invoke a 17th-century anti-Turk hero, in a wave of letter-bomb attacks against people sympathetic to refugees and foreigners. Four devices have exploded and bomb-squad officers have defused six others since the attacks began last Friday.

'The only theory that seems to fit at the moment is that the perpetrators come from right-wing radical, neo-Nazi circles who hate foreigners,' the country's security police chief, Michael Sika, told Austrian radio. He described the booby-trapped letters as the work of a highly expert professional - cleverly constructed from plastic drinking straws filled with homemade nitroglycerine and strong enough to kill.

Four people have been wounded, including Vienna's mayor, Helmut Zilk, who was injured on Sunday night after opening his post on returning from a trip. Mr Zilk, 66, mayor for the past nine years and one of Austria's most popular politicians, had half of his left hand blown off.

Roman Catholic priests, leading politicians, legal and cultural centres linked to refugees and foreigners living in Austria have all been targeted. An 18-year-old secretary at a law office in Vienna was slightly hurt yesterday. No person or group has admitted sending the packages.

The Interior Minister, Franz Loeschnak, said notes with four of the letter bombs cited the name of Count Ernst Ruediger von Starhemberg, who successfully defended Vienna against a siege by Turkish armies in 1683. The slogan, 'We're fighting back. Count Ruediger von Starhemberg', was found on four devices.

The attacks broke a lull in anti-foreigner activity in Austria, where Jewish gravestones were daubed with swastikas and a foreigners' hostel was fire-bombed last year.