PALERMO, Sicily -- A powerful car bomb killed a chief investigating judge, two bodyguards and a bystander Friday in the fifth Mafia assassination of a top official in Sicily since 1979.
The 220-pound bomb, apparently set off by radio command, exploded as Judge Rocco Chinnici, 58, walked from his apartment house to a bullet-proof car waiting to take him to work.
The blast ripped apart the bodies of the four victims and injured 14 people, including three more of Chinnici's bodyguards, a 7-year-old boy and a 73-year-old woman. Two of the injured were hospitalized.
Four other cars were demolished, iron balcony railings were twisted and windows were shattered for a radius of 500 yards. Debris littered the street.
'Yet again the Mafia has carried out a horrendous massacre in our city,' Mayor Elda Pucci said. Prime Minister Amintore Fanfani, who heads Italy's caretaker government, flew to Palermo with top police officials.
In Rome, Italy's 86-year-old President Sandro Pertini called the killings a work of 'ruthless ferocity' and pledged the republic would eliminate the Mafia.
'It's open war now,' said an investigator viewing the blood-stained pavement of Via Pipitone Federico. He urged a 'scorched earth' attack on the Mafia.
A woman who lives in a second-floor apartment said the blast was like an earthquake. 'The while building shook on its foundation while thousands of windows shattered,' she said.
'I heard a big roar,' said Giuseppe Polito, 57, a janitor who injured while sweeping the sidewalk. 'I was shoved for meters by the force of the explosion. There were groans, screams, glass and my body was all bloody.'
Police said Chinnici's assassins loaded a small green Fiat with TNT and parked it directly in front of his apartment house.
Killed along with Chinnici were Sgt. Maj. Mario Trapassi, 33, and Corp. Salvatore Bartolotta, 56, of the Carabinieri national police, and Stefano Li Sacchi, 56, janitor of the judge's apartment house.
In his last interview, which appears in the next issue of the weekly magazine Panorama, Chinnici was asked whether the Mafia frightened him.
'No,' he said. 'I walk with an escort. This is true. But I know that they can hit me at any moment. I hope that if it happens, nothing will happen to the men of my escort.'
Chinnici, known as honest, indefatigable and a dedicated opponent of the Mafia in his post as chief investigating judge of Palermo, was the latest in a series of officials to fall victim to the Mafia.
Earlier Mafia killings included Chinnici's predecessor, Judge Cesare Terranova, killed in September 1979, Sicilian Regional President Piersanti Mattarella in January 1980, Communist Party official Pio La Torre in April 1982 and national police Gen. Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa in September 1982.
Della Chiesa had arrived in Palermo the day after La Torre died to head the battle against the Mafia and his assassination led to tough new anti-Mafia laws and a major crackdown on organized crime in southern Italy.