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Tourist killed as bombs hit Cuba hotels

Thursday 04 September 1997 23:02 BST

Mexico City (AP) - Explosions shook three tourist hotels in the Cuban capital of Havana on 5 September 1997, killing an Italian resident of Canada. The explosions appeared to be part of a campaign by dissidents aimed at Cuba's increasingly important tourist industry.

Witnesses said that the first and worst explosion occurred just before 11.30am local time at the Copacabana hotel, where Fabio Di Celmo apparently was killed. The Italian Foreign Ministry in Rome identified Mr Di Celmo, 32, as a native of Genoa, Italy, who lived in Montreal. It said that he and his father were staying at the hotel as tourists. Witnesses also said that two smaller blasts occurred within 45 minutes at the Chateau and Triton hotels. No injuries were immediately reported there.

Police blocked access to all three hotels yesterday afternoon. The explosions were the latest in a series of bombings at Havana hotels, but the first to result in a death. The last confirmed bombing in the Cuban capital occurred on 5 August, at the Hotel Melia Cohiba. A small explosion went off on 12 July in the Nacional and Capri hotels, injuring three people.

There was also an explosion on 4 August at a Cuban tourism office in Nassau in the Bahamas. Cuban officials have said they believe that United States-based enemies of President Fidel Castro's government have undertaken the attacks in an attempt to harm tourism.

US officials said they had no information to support that claim, and added that there was no justification for bombings.

"The United States is committed to supporting a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba," said James P Foley, a State Department spokesman.

The militant Cuban exile group Alpha 66, in Miami, said in August that it was not responsible for the blasts, but was in contact with "clandestine cells" inside Cuba that were.

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