Copyright 2000 Times Newspapers Limited The Times (London)
July 8, 2000, Saturday
SECTION: Overseas news
LENGTH: 543 words
HEADLINE: Pipe bomber sows fear on Italian beaches
BYLINE: John Phillips in Rome
Police stepped up security on the Adriatic coast yesterday after a terrorist pipe bomb attack on a crowded beach near Venice left an elderly tourist in a critical condition.
Giorgio Novelli, a retired paramilitary police officer from Bologna, spotted the rudimentary 7in-long bomb protruding from the sand in shallow water at the resort of Lignano Sabbiadoro on Thursday. It exploded in his face when he picked it up.
Andrea Agostinis, a teacher who in 1996 was arrested on suspicion of involvement in similar incidents but later released, was questioned by police about Thursday's attack.
Signor Agostinis, who wrote a book called Me, the Beach Bomber about the persecution he said he had undergone, had arrived on Thursday morning at his holiday flat in Lignano.
A Danish doctor sunning himself on the beach provided the first treatment for Signor Novelli, 79, who collapsed and lost consciousness. He was taken by helicopter ambulance to hospital.
Anti-terrorist experts have speculated that the attacks may have been inspired by the activities of the so-called "Unabomber", Theodore Kaczynski, the reclusive mathematician who carried out a rash of attacks in the US between 1978 and 1996. He was eventually arrested by the FBI in Montana and sentenced to life in prison.
Police stepped up patrols at the beach at Lignano yesterday and issued an appeal to tourists to provide officers with holiday photographs taken at the scene on Thursday so that they could be studied for possible clues.
The head of the local tourist board, Mario Maniera, said that lighting on the beach had already been increased at night in an attempt to improve security, adding that there was a limit to how much could be done to protect tourists.
"We can't close the beach or use metal detectors," he said. "Perhaps this is not so much a terrorist attack as the work of a sick mind."
The incident marks a recurrence of a series of pipe bomb attacks that injured people in northern Italy between 1994 and 1996, including another at Lignano on August 4, 1996.
Other attacks involving pipe bomb devices in the region include one at a wine festival at the town of Sacile in 1994 in which three people were injured.
A similar bombing occurred near the Nato base at Aviano in December 1995. Another in front of a supermarket at the town of Pordenone in the same month seriously injured a young woman. A further attack was carried out in the town of Azzano in February 1995 during a carnival procession.
Police sources said that the device which exploded on Thursday was similar to those used in the previous attacks.
Virgilio Sandri, the Mayor of the resort, said that he was concerned the affair could cause cancellations among the four million tourists expected to visit the area this summer, many of them Germans.
In an unrelated incident in Milan, police found two devices hidden in fake flower vases in front of the office of the Catholic Trade Union Federation. A group calling itself the Proletarian Revolutionary Nucleus claimed that it was responsible for planting the bombs.