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Bomb attack stuns Italy

Fears raised after Libyan targets Milan barracks

12 October, 18:34

(ANSA) - Rome, October 12 - A bomb attack on a northern Italian police barracks Monday luckily failed to claim lives but left Italy guessing if it was in the sights of Islamist terrorists.

Mohamed Game, a 34-year-old Libyan who has lived in Milan for years and has two children with an Italian woman, was spotted on his way into Milan's main Carabinieri barracks and let off the device he was carrying in a metal case.

Although much of the explosive for some reason failed to explode, Game, who took the brunt of the blast, lost a hand and was blinded in both eyes.

A Carabinieri corporal was grazed in the hand by a fragment.

Game was not linked to known terror groups and the case was at first being considered an isolated incident but investigators said later they could not rule out that Game was planning a suicide attack. The unprecedented case alarmed Italian officials.

The head of the parliamentary security committee COPASIR, Francesco Rutelli, observed that Italy had never suffered the likes of the March 2004 al-Qaeda-linked Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people and left 1,800 wounded, or the July 2005 London bombings that killed 56 and wounded 700.

Although some plots have been foiled, Rutelli said, Italy has until now been considered ''predominantly a place of transit and recruitment'' for Islamist terrorists.

''We must therefore analyse what has happened with great attention and hope it was an isolated incident,'' he said.

In the wake of the attack, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni called a meeting of the National Security Committee on Tuesday evening at 19:00 Italian time (17:00 GMT).

Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa said Italian soldiers and police would now receive more training to spot possible terrorists.

''They are already getting this type of training but I will have it stepped up,'' he said.

The bomb could have done ''much more harm'' if all the explosives had gone off, La Russa added.

Although the nature of the attack was still unclear, he said, it was nonetheless a ''symbolic'' attack against Italy's armed forces.

He said he could not rule out a link with talk of a withdrawal of Italian troops from Afghanistan after six soldiers were killed in Kabul on September 17.

BOMBER 'WANTED TO DO SOMETHING FOR ISLAM'.

Game ''wanted to do something for Islam,'' a close friend told reporters.

Speaking outside Game's Milan home, fellow Libyan Mohammad Israfil said his friend ''wasn't a fundamentalist but in the last four to five months he returned to Islam and occasionally said we should do something for our religion''.

Game also said Italy should pull its troops out of Afghanistan but ''it was always rather generic talk,'' added Israfil, who is to be questioned on the bombing.

He said Game was ''an expert electrician'' who lost a construction firm two years ago after running up debts.

The firm employed 45 people, Israfil said.

''I last saw him yesterday afternoon, we had a coffee. He appeared normal, we talked about the fact that we would have to look for a small job, that they are hard times for everyone''.

Israfil said he would have to look after the family Game has with Giovanna M., a home help from Puglia.

Neighbours said the couple had lived there for years and had two children aged 3 and 5, plus two older children Giovanna M. had from a previous relationship.

A young man who lives above Game said: ''They seemed a normal family. He was polite, said hello, you never heard them quarrel''.

Game was heard saying ''something in Arabic'' when he saw the machine guns being levelled at him, police said.

But the barracks commander said he could ''categorically rule out'' it was anything about Afghanistan.

Investigators stressed they had found nothing so far to connect Game to a plan foiled last year to bomb the barracks in southwest Milan.

Two Moroccan nationals were arrested in December in connection with that plot, in which they were heard on wiretaps discussing a serious of Milanese targets.

Security has since been stepped up at the barracks, a factor which may have helped foil Monday's attack.

Milan Mayor Letizia Moratti praised the ''promptness'' of the guards.

Bomb experts said the device used by the Libyan appeared to have been made with explosives from large fireworks.

Milan Prosecutor Armando Spataro said it contained nitrate, a common bomb-making ingredient.

An unspecified amount of the explosive had failed to go off, Spataro said.

Game, who was arrested in hospital, has lived in Milan since 2003 on a valid permit, Spataro said.

He was accused of receiving stolen goods in 2007.

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