Parcels x-rayed as anarchists step up bombing campaign

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Italian police ordered postal workers in Bologna yesterday to x-ray parcels addressed to European institutions, in an attempt to staunch the flow of parcel bombs from the city after four found their way to EU targets in less than a week.

Only one of the bombs went off: when Romano Prodi, the president of the European Commission, opened a book he received through the post last Saturday, incendiary material inside burst into flames, damaging furnishings in his home. Mr Prodi was unhurt.

Similar devices sent to the president of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Jean-Claude Trichet, and pan-European police and justice organisations in Holland, were dismantled before they could do any damage.

Police were alerted to the bombing campaign a few days before when two devices exploded in rubbish bins outside Mr Prodi's home. The blasts were claimed by a group calling itself the Informal Federation of Anarchists, which warned that other European targets were also in its sights.

The Italian media is abuzz with speculation about who might be responsible. The strongest theory is that the parcels come from a joint Spanish and Italian "anarcho-insurrectionist" group.

Investigators in Bologna, quoted by the newspaper Corriere della Sera yesterday, said the campaign was similar to one conducted against Spanish targets, including Iberian Airlines, a year ago.

In both cases, hollowed-out books containing crude incendiary devices were sent to the victims, and were signed "5Cs", which stands, in Italian, for "cells against capital, prisons, wardens and [prison] cells".

Extremists from the two countries are said to be united around Claudio Lavazza, an Italian serving a jail sentence in Andalusia after killing two policemen during a bank robbery in Cordoba in 1996.

Italian investigators believe some Spanish group members visited their Bolognese counterparts about a month ago, perhaps to plan the recent actions against the structure and officials of the EU - an initiative designed to gain maximum publicity.