Teenager killed, 4 gravely injured in Italy school blast

ROME — A 16-year-old girl died and four other teens were gravely injured Saturday in a powerful bomb blast outside their school named after a woman killed by the mafia with her judge husband in 1992.

School officials said the blast, which went off outside the building as students were arriving for class at the all-girls Francesca Morvillo Falcone vocational school in the southern city of Brindisi, knocked several of them to the ground.

“I had just gone into the bar in front of the school. I saw everything falling. I don’t remember anything else. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back. There’s something missing now,” one survivor told local television.

An employee at the prosecutor’s office next to the school told the Repubblica daily: “I was opening the window and the blast wave hit me. I saw kids on the ground. All blackened. Their books on fire. It was terrifying.”

Local emergency official Fabiano Amati told the news channel Sky Tg24 one 16-year-old girl “did not survive”.

Hospital official Paola Ciannamea told reporters that one of the injured girls, also 16, who had initially been reported as dead by police sources cited by Italian media, was alive but in a “very serious condition”.

A second injured girl could lose her legs and two others have burns all over their bodies. Five other students were reported suffering only light injuries.

Italian media cited officials saying that the device was composed of gas canisters hidden in a container near a wall at the entrance of the school.

The school’s director Valeria Vitale was quoted as saying by the daily La Repubblica: “The first people to come to the aid of the injured were a teacher, a monitor and a technician… The students are in shock.”

Police quickly cordoned off the school and bomb disposal experts rushed to the scene. The area was strewn with debris and one wall was blackened.

The blast went off around 7:45 a.m. Most Italian students have classes on Saturday morning. Other city schools sent their students home.

No one has claimed responsibility for the blast.

Reports said investigators were looking into a possible mafia connection but also the hypothesis that it could be linked to a jealous row.

Interior Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri said there was no clear motive, pointing to “numerous hypotheses” and cautioning against hasty conclusions.

A bomb attack near Brindisi blamed on the mafia earlier this month narrowly missed killing the head of an anti-racket association.

Saturday’s attack caused shock across Italy, where the memory of a spate of mafia bombings against civilians in the early 1990s is still raw.

“This is a horrific attack that feels like sacrilege. We must act firmly and with determination,” said Nichi Vendola, governor of the local Apulia region.

Local authorities are planning a large demonstration later on Saturday in Brindisi in solidarity with the victims of the attack.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the bombing was “an absolutely horrific and vile act.”

“The entire country must react decisively against the temptation of violence and terrorist provocations,” he said.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said he was following developments “with apprehension” and reached out to the families of the victims.

The school is named after the wife of the famous anti-mafia judge Giovanni Falcone, who was killed in a bomb attack in Sicily along with her and their three bodyguards 20 years ago on Wednesday.

A procession was set to pass near Brindisi on Saturday to commemorate the anniversary.

The local mafia in the Apulia region, which is heavily involved in drug and arms smuggling and human trafficking, is known as the Sacra Corona Unita (United Sacred Crown) which has been targeted in police raids in recent days.


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