Italy mulls using army to stem political violence

Reuters News

5/14/2012 4:04:04 PM - Reuters News

MILAN (Reuters) - Italy is considering using the army to protect the defense conglomerate Finmeccanica and the tax collection agency Equitalia, the targets of a series of attacks that are raising concerns about political violence, the interior minister said.

Although protests against Italy's austerity program have been largely peaceful, last week a well-known anarchist group claimed responsibility for an attack in which a Finmeccanica executive was shot in the leg.

"Investigators tell me this is a credible claim. This forces us to raise our guard to avoid an escalation that, sadly, is one possible scenario. This is what we are going to do in the next days," Interior Minister Annamaria Cancellieri told the daily La Repubblica in an interview.

She said using the army to defend potential targets was "a possible solution".

A national security committee will meet on Thursday. Cancellieri said Equitalia, the target of a string of letter bomb and petrol bomb attacks, needed tighter security.

"Any attack against Equitalia is an attack against the state," she said.

Roberto Adinolfi, chief executive of the Ansaldo Nucleare nuclear engineering group controlled by Finmeccanica, was shot and wounded by masked gunmen on Monday.

The attack was claimed by a branch of the Informal Anarchist Federation, which has claimed responsibility for a string of letter bombs sent to Equitalia officials including its director general. The group has said it will strike seven more times.

"I hope this does not mean a return to a tragic past," Finmeccanica chief executive Giuseppe Orsi told the Corriere della Sera daily.

The far-left Red Brigades spread violence and terror across Italy in the "Years of Lead" in the 1970s with their attacks on the political, military and industrial establishment.

Mario Monti's government has embarked on a series of radical measures to try to contain Italy's mammoth public debt, including raising taxes, cutting pensions and opening up the labor market.

A wave of highly publicized suicides, especially among debt-stricken entrepreneurs, has highlighted the human cost of the crisis and made tax collectors into hate figures.

This month a struggling 54-year-old businessman burst into an Equitalia office and held an official hostage at gunpoint for several hours before surrendering to police.

(Reporting by Lisa Jucca; Editing by Kevin Liffey)