ROME (Jun. 17)
A Syrian registered automobile packed with explosives blew up in the center of Rome today, injuring two men described as Arabs who were inside the car.
Police said only a small part of the total amount of explosives aboard the car went off. apparently igniting spilled gasoline. Bomb disposal experts later found a large amount of gelignite concealed in cigarette cartons.
The two men, both badly burned but not in grave condition, were taken to Rome’s General Hospital and placed under a heavy police guard. From the automobile documents and personal papers, police tentatively identified one of the men as Shibli Ryad, born in Ramleh in 1954 and now residing in Damascus.
According to police officials, the black Mercedes also contained detonators and fuses. They said that had all the explosives aboard the car ignited there would have been a massive tragedy in the heart of the city.
The explosion occurred in the Piazza Barberini, at the foot of the Via Veneto and next to one of Rome’s famous Bernini statues, which was undamaged.
A passer-by, Roberto Guerra, who pulled the injured men to safety, said: “There were two explosions, then a huge sheet of flame, the men threw themselves out of the car and started rolling on the ground to extinguish their burning clothes.”
Police now are trying to find out if the men were responsible for the explosion and, if so, what they were trying to accomplish. One theory, which police said is at the moment “a mere hypothesis,” is that the men were planning to place the car in front of the nearby Israeli E1 A1 Airlines office.
Austrian Premier Bruno Kreisky has accepted an invitation to visit Israel but no date has yet been set. The invitation was extended by Knesset Speaker Israel Yeshayahu who is visiting Austria.