No suspects, or motive, seen in bomb blast in Rome

May 16, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

ROME -- Investigators probing the rubble of a bombing in th heart of Rome found more potential culprits than solid clues yesterday.

In a city shaken by the attack, those seen as might-be bombers include international terrorists, the Mafia (perhaps trying to kill a TV talk-show host who was near the blast) and "dark forces" seeking to destabilize Italy at a delicate political moment.

By police count, the bombing Friday night in the swank Parioli residential area injured two dozen people, destroyed 50 cars and damaged two schools, some shops and about 100 apartments in six buildings.

The blast, of at least 22 pounds of explosives, dug a crater on Ruggero Fauro Street, hurled twisted auto-body panels into trees and blew out windows. Only the location of the blast on a side street, and the timing -- 9:40 p.m. on a Friday -- prevented loss of life, police said.

It was unclear whether the bomb was remote-controlled or fired by a timer. The Parioli district is home to many middle- and upper-class Italian families, and to the villas of some foreign embassies, including the U.S. ambassador's residence. But no embassies are near the blast site, and no politically prominent Italians live nearby.

In a country where nerves are frazzled by political scandal and the uncertainty of a quest for change, the bombing sounded alarms: Who did it? What was the target?

Italy is no stranger to terrorism, its own and that of other countries in a volatile region. This year, an Iranian exile leader was slain.

Italian state television reported that police had received some unpersuasive claims of responsibility by callers who said they represented Bosnian Serbs. Italy is the springboard for NATO enforcement of the United Nations-declared "no-fly zone" in Bosnia. Last week, a Bosnian Serb leader was quoted as threatening Italy with a missile attack in the event of a widened conflict.

More likely, in the view of some, is that the bomb was planted by a Mafia clan in an attempt to kill Maurizio Costanzo, a TV personality who often inveighs against organized crime in his nightly talk shows.

Organized crime has suffered a series of reversals at the hands of Italian police in the past year. On Friday, Interior [Police] Minister Nicola Mancino warned that the Mafia might be preparing a counterattack.

The bomb exploded near the Parioli Theater, which Mr. Costanzo had just left after recording his Friday night show. His chauffeur-driven car, followed by a car carrying two bodyguards, had turned a corner and was shielded by a school building when the bomb exploded. One of the bodyguards in the second car was injured by flying debris, police said.

The "dark forces" theory argues that the blast was random, the work of Italian terrorists seeking to unsettle Italy at an already rocky moment. About 3,000 businessmen and politicians have been linked to a scandal involving bribes and kickbacks.

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