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ROME – A loosely linked movement of European anarchists who want to bring down state and financial institutions is becoming more violent and coordinated after decades out of the spotlight, and may be responding to social tensions spawned by the continent's financial crisis, security experts say.
Italian police said Tuesday that letter bombs were sent to three embassies in Rome by Italian anarchists in solidarity with jailed Greek anarchists, who had asked their comrades to organize and coordinate a global "revolutionary war."
Identical package bombs exploded at the Swiss and Chilean embassies in Rome on Dec. 23, badly wounding the two people who opened them. A third bomb was safely defused at the Greek Embassy on Monday.
"We're striking again, and we do so in response to the appeal launched by our Greek companions," the Italian group known as the Informal Anarchist Federation wrote in a claim of responsibility for the third bomb that was released by police here Tuesday.
Extreme left-wing and anarchist movements have existed for decades in Europe — waging deadly attacks across the continent in the 1960s and 1970s that trailed and became sporadic in recent decades. Officials, meanwhile, focused far more intensely on the threat of Islamist terrorism.
But the European Union's police agency, Europol, reported this year that attacks by far-left and anarchist militant groups jumped by 43 percent in 2009 compared to the previous year, and more than doubled over 2007, with most of the incidents in Italy, Spain and Greece. Spain and Greece have been hit particularly hard by government cutbacks and unemployment resulting from a continentwide debt crisis. Italy has also been growing tense in recent months in response to austerity measures and a political duel between Premier Silvio Berlusconi and a former ally that for weeks threatened the government's survival.
Last month, 14 letter bombs were mailed to embassies in Athens by a Greek group that urged stepped-up attacks by anarchists worldwide. Two of the devices exploded, causing no injuries.
"Anarchists-insurrectionists work to try to raise the level of clashes when there are problems" said Marco Boschi, a criminologist who teaches a course on terrorism at the University of Florence and has written about anarchists. "They exploit every occasion."
A Greek group calling itself the Conspiracy Nuclei of Fire claimed responsibility for sending the 14 mail bombs in Athens. Panagiotis Argyros, 22 and Gerasimos Tsakalos, 24, were arrested on Nov. 1 in connection with the mailings and were charged with terrorism-related offenses. At least a dozen suspected members of their group are due to go on trial Jan. 17 for other offenses.
The Conspiracy Nuclei of Fire called on militants around Europe to step up their actions before the trial.