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Feature: Bombs unleashed against the EU

By ROLAND FLAMINI, Chief International Correspondent

WASHINGTON, Dec. 30 (UPI) -- The European Union has its opponents even among member countries, but their opposition is usually expressed in words. In the past seven days, however, anarchists in the Italian city of Bologna have been using more drastic tactics: letter bombs to EU officials and institutions.

On Tuesday, Eurojust, the office of the public prosecutor of the European Court of Justice in The Hague confirmed that it had received a letter bomb mailed in the northern Italian city. Dutch bomb disposal experts were called in to disarm the device, and no one was hurt, a Dutch source reported.

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This followed the discovery of two letter bombs Monday, one addressed to Jean-Claude Trichet, head of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, and the other sent to the director of Europol in The Hague. Postal workers found the Frankfurt letter, which was then disabled by bomb specialists.

Italian sources said Bologna police were informed the letter had as return address a fictitious publishing house, but an existing street in the city.

The bomb was intercepted at the Dutch headquarters of the EU's police agency Europol, and was defused before it could do any damage. "The letter bomb was delivered at the Europol head office in The Hague but the staff was suspicious about it," said spokeswoman Astrid Rijsdorp of the public prosecutor's office in The Hague.

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Italian media reports said the letter bore a sender's address in Bologna, and the name of Emile Henry, a French 19th century anarchist bomber who tossed a bomb into the crowded Cafe Terminus at the Gare St. Lazare railway station in Paris, killing several people. His motto was "There are no innocents."

Europol handles criminal intelligence and assists authorities in EU countries in their fight against organized crime.

No organization claimed responsibility for the three bomb attempts, but investigators in Bologna were linking them to an anarchist group that had earlier targeted the EU's top official. On Friday Romano Prodi escaped unhurt when a book packet blew up as he was opening it.

Investigators believe the book was sent by a little known anarchist organization, the Informal Anarchic Federation (FAI). The group had written to a Bologna newspaper claiming responsibility for two home made bombs consisting of a cooking pot, a gas cylinder and a timer were left inside two garbage containers a few yards from Prodi's residence.

The FAI letter specified that Prodi had been the target. But Prodi and his wife were not home at the time of the two blasts, which did little damage.

The book sent in the packet bomb was Gabriele d'Annunzio's erotic novel "The Child of Pleasure." D'Annunzio, an admirer and supporter of the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, is a literary hero of the Italian extreme right. This has led some conspiracy-conscious Italians to speculate that the real aim of the bombers was to send a message to Prodi not to return to Italian politics when his Brussels term runs out in October 2004. According to this theory, the other bombs were designed to lay a false trail, without doing much damage.

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Prodi was elected prime minister of Italy's center-left government in 1996, defeating Silvio Berlusconi, the conservative incumbent. Some Italian political analysts believe he is the only politician who has a chance to rally the left and beat Berlusconi a second time.

The other theory is that the bombers are an extreme expression of growing discontent in the Italian right with criticism from Brussels of Italy's performance as the rotating EU president in the past six months.

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