A Libyan man set off a bomb while trying to enter an army barracks in Milan today, seriously injuring himself and lightly wounding the guard who stopped him, Italian law enforcement officials said.
The man attempted to enter the barracks on foot at around 7.45am, taking advantage of the main gate opening to allow an authorised car through, said Col Giuseppe Affini, a chief spokesman for the army in the Lombardy region that includes Milan.
“He was immediately blocked by the guard, who yelled ’Halt.’ He exploded the briefcase that he was holding,” Col Affini said.
Authorities said the man appeared to be acting alone, and Col Affini denied initial media reports that the man had shouted “Out of Afghanistan!” He said the man had shouted something in Arabic but that it was not clear what.
Some of the 2,800 troops that Italy has deployed in Afghanistan are based in the army barracks that was attacked, Col Affini said.
“It seems like an isolated act,” Francesco Rutelli, who heads a parliamentary committee that oversees secret services, told Radio 24.
The bomb was not very powerful and the explosion caused very minor damage to the building, police said. The 20-year-old guard was lightly wounded and treated at the scene, Col Affini said.
The attacker was being treated at a Milan hospital for injuries to his hand and his face which were not life-threatening, authorities said.
Police, who identified the attacker as a 35-year-old Libyan with legal residence in Italy, were searching his apartment in Milan for clues as to the motive.
However, police said it did not appear related to a case involving two Moroccans who were arrested last December for allegedly planning terrorist attacks against targets in Milan, including at the same military barracks.
One witness, Lt Giovanni Lo Bianco, was waiting in another car waiting to enter the barracks when he saw smoke from the attack. He and other military personnel arriving for work cleared passers-by from the street and secured the area in case there was a secondary explosion.
“Having experience in Afghanistan, we expected that this could be a trap to harm as many people as possible,” said Lt Lo Bianco, who served four months in Afghanistan in 2005-6.