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Italy Boosts Milan Church Security

December 19, 2000

MILAN, Italy (AP) _ Police reinforced security in Milan’s churches Tuesday, a day after a time bomb set to go off in the middle of the night was discovered atop the Duomo, the city’s famed spired cathedral.

Several Italian newspapers received calls claiming responsibility, and the Rome daily Il Messaggero got a claim in the mail from what purported to be an ``anarcho-insurrectionist″ group acting in solidarity with prisoners around the world, including Spain.

A similar claim was made after a bomb was found in another prominent Milan church, St. Ambrose, six months ago, the ANSA news agency said.

Tourists strolled past police on patrol Tuesday inside the church as well as on a rooftop terrace, a popular viewing spot where a Duomo worker found the bomb in a bag Monday. School groups and families flock to churches throughout Italy in the days leading up to Christmas to view the elaborate nativity scenes.

The device was ``in perfect working order,″ Milan prosecutor Stefano Dambruoso said. If it had exploded, ``it would have done enormous damage. One of the gargoyles on the Duomo would have been blown up.″

The city’s churches will be carefully patrolled, Milan’s top interior ministry official, Bruno Ferrante, told reporters after meeting with the mayor and police officials. On Tuesday, police inspected handbags and backpacks before allowing visitors inside the Duomo.

``We’re not ‘militarizing’ anything, obviously,″ Ferrante said, ``but we have picked out some possible targets that should be, in our opinion, more looked after.″

No suspects have been identified so far for a series of bomb discoveries and explosions in the past three years in Milan, Italy’s financial capital, starting with a blast that did minor damage in 1997 to City Hall.

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