MERANO, Italy -- A bomb believed planted by regional extremists exploded Wednesday at the Alpine hotel where Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Andreotti and his family were spending a New Year's holiday vacation. No injuries were reported.
Police said the bomb, about 4 pounds of plastic explosive packed into a metal pipe, went off around 1:30 a.m. atop an 8-foot wall surrounding the Palace hotel, where Andreotti and his family have been vacationing since Saturday.
Andreotti, 67, his wife, son and daughter and several grandchildren were asleep in rooms on the seventh floor of the resort hotel.
Their rooms were not damaged but they were jolted awake by the explosion, which authorities suspected was the work of extremists campaigning for the return of an Italian border province to Austria.
The province, known to its German-speaking inhabitants by its old name, South Tyrol, was handed over to Italy at the end of World War I.
'I was woken up by this bang that came a bit ahead of New Year's Eve,' Andreotti, a former prime minister, quipped to reporters. He said he and his family had no intention of interrupting their Merano vacation but police stepped up security at the hotel.
In Beirut, Lebanon, an organization calling itself the Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Brigades claimed responsibility for the bombing in a telephone call to the Italian news agency ANSA.
But Andreotti told reporters both he and investigators believe it was the work of local German-speaking extremists and had no connection with Middle East terrorism.
'Events of this kind are not very rare in Alto Adige,' Andreotti said, using the Italian name of the province where German-speaking extremists have bombed public buildings to draw attention to their cause.
'Fortunately in recent years such bombings have not been aimed at killing people, but have been purely demonstrative,' he said.
The explosion shattered windows in the hotel and damaged a wall. A large piece of metal from the home-made bomb crashed through a window into a bedroom where a Polish tourist and his wife were sleeping, but there were no injuries.
Investigators said they believed the bombing was carried out by the German-speaking extremists because the name Andreas Hofer was etched on part of the metal bomb casing. Hofer is a South Tyrolean folk hero the extremists use as their symbol.
The claim of responsibility in Beirut was made on behalf of an organization called the Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Brigades. But investigators said the evidence ruled out Middle East involvement.
'I think Beirut may be involved in many problems, but not with this year-end explosion in Merano,' said Andreotti.