European officials targeted by letter bombs sent from Bologna

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The Independent Online

The President of the European Central Bank was the target of a letter bomb yesterday, two days after a parcel bomb burst into flames while it was being opened by Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission, at his home in Bologna.

Both bombs were said to have been sent from Bologna, a city which harboured violent ultra-left groups during Italy's "years of lead" in the 1970s and 1980s when leftists and neo-fascists traded atrocities.

The letter bomb sent to Jean-Claude Trichet did not explode and it was being examined last night by the authorities in Frankfurt, where the Central Bank is based. Results were expected to be made public today. After the bomb sent to Mr Prodi burst into flames, damaging furniture and carpets but causing no injuries, a little-known group identified by the Italian media as "anarcho-insurrectionalist" claimed credit, calling themselves the Informal Federation of Anarchists.

A third letter bomb was detected at the headquarters of another symbol of pan-European unity yesterday, the European Union's police agency, Europol, at its head office in The Hague in the Netherlands. "The letter bomb was delivered at the Europol head office ... but staff were suspicious about it," said Astrid Rijsdorp, a spokeswoman at the public prosecutor's office in The Hague. "They warned the bomb squad who defused it in time and nobody got injured." Ms Rijsdorp gave no further details but said police were investigating the device.

The bomb addressed to Mr Prodi was the third hostile action directed at the president of the European Commission in less than a week. Two small devices exploded in rubbish bins close to his home, and the glass in front of a bookshop display of a new book by Mr Prodi was smashed. Mr Prodi has downplayed the significance of the incidents, but the opposition in Italy's parliament complained that the government was insufficiently attentive to Mr Prodi's security. As leader of a centre-left coalition, Mr Prodi beat Silvio Berlusconi to become prime minister in 1996, and is widely seen as the best hope the opposition has of pulling off the same thing again at the next general election.