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Rome shooting

Shooting was tragic gesture of an unemployed man, new PM says



A gunman shot two police officers and a passerby outside the Italian prime minister's office in Rome on Sunday. He told investigators he had acted out of anger with politicians.

  • The suspected gunman was immediately grabbed by other police in the square. Photo: EITB

    The suspected gunman was immediately grabbed by other police in the square. Photo: EITB

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Italy's new Prime Minister Enrico Letta attended the official handover ceremony on Sunday inside the building in Rome outside of which a violent shooting took place a few hours earlier. Letta received a bell traditionally used to mark the beginning of cabinet meetings from outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti.

Immediately following the ceremony at Chigi Palace, new Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano told a news conference that the shooting was the tragic gesture of a 49-year-old unemployed man. Two policemen were wounded in the attack.

The suspected gunman, dressed in a dark business suit, was immediately grabbed by other police in the square, wrestled to the ground and taken away.

A woman passing by during the shooting was also slightly injured, Rome's mayor said. It was unclear if she was grazed by a bullet or hurt in the panic sparked by the gunfire.

Alfano said that, according to preliminary investigations, the attack outside Chigi Palace "was carried out by a 49-year-old unemployed man who, immediately after his gesture, showed that he wanted to commit suicide." "After initial investigations, we believe that this was an isolated gesture about which further investigations are under way," he added.

The shooting took place just as Italy's new government was being sworn in at the Quirinal Presidential Palace, about a kilometre (half-mile) away, the Interior Minister said.

It was not immediately clear if the shooting outside the Chigi Palace, which houses the premier's office and other government offices, was timed to coincide with the swearing-in ceremony.

But tensions have been running high in Italy following inconclusive elections in February that left the country mired in political deadlock amid a deep recession.

The 46-year-old Letta nailed down a coalition deal only a day ago between two bitter political enemies - his centre-left forces and the conservative bloc of ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi.

Reporters inside the Chigi Palace press office heard the shots and raced outside. An Associated Press television producer saw the two wounded Carabinieri officers in the square outside the palace.  One of them lay on the pavement with blood pouring out of his neck.

Alfano said the alleged gunman - Luigi Preiti - wanted to kill himself after the shooting but ran out of bullets. He said six shots were fired.

Fanuel Morelli, a cameraman who witnessed the attack, described what he heard and saw of the shooting:"I was talking with a friend of mine, we were like 20 metres (65 feet) from the policeman, and then we heard a fire crack and we didn't think it was gunfire, then I turned around and I saw this man wearing a tie, and he was just pointing this gun in this direction toward the policeman and he fired five or 6 more shots," Morelli.

Another witness, photographer Luigi Colli said he was outside the Palace "taking pictures", when he "heard a gunshot" and saw "a man who was shooting".

Doctors at Rome's Umberto I Polyclinic said the more seriously injured of the two police officers was a 50-year-old brigadier. They told reporters that a bullet had entered the right side of the officer's neck, damaged his spinal column and was lodged near his shoulder. The doctors said it wasn't yet known if the spinal column injury had caused any paralysis.

The other victim was a 30-year-old officer who was shot in the leg and had suffered a fracture, hospital officials said.

Preiti was taken to another Rome hospital. News reports said a protective collar was seen around the man's neck.

Italian media reports said the assailant was from southern Calabria and had lived for several years in northern Italy before moving back to Calabria after his marriage fell apart.

Local media quoted the man's brother as saying the alleged attacker had lost his job in a construction firm and was upset over marital problems.


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