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Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi attacked at rally

An assailant strikes the prime minister in the face, possibly with a statuette, leaving him bloodied. He is reported to have suffered two broken teeth, a minor nose fracture and cuts.

December 14, 2009|By Maria De Cristofaro

Reporting from Rome — Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was struck in the face and left bloodied at a rally of his political coalition in Milan on Sunday.

Vivid video shows the wounded prime minister appearing dazed in the aftermath of the attack, which took place as he was greeting supporters and signing autographs.

Berlusconi was taken to a hospital and, according to the Italian news agency ANSA, treated for two broken teeth, a minor nose fracture and cuts to his lips. As a precaution, he remained hospitalized for overnight observation.

Various Italian media reports said he was either punched in the face or struck with a statuette by his attacker. ANSA quoted a witness, Gabriele Cartasegna, leader of Berlusconi's political party's youth movement: "I was standing at his side when I saw a man standing close to the barrier, who, without saying a word, threw from a short distance a souvenir of the Duomo di Milano. I don't know if the object was made of stone or metal."

The newspaper Corriere della Sera identified the suspect, who was quickly apprehended, as Massimo Tartaglia, 42, a man with no previous criminal record but an apparent history of mental problems.

"Thanks to the police we managed to grab the attacker immediately and save him from the crowd who was about to lynch him," Berlusconi coalition party member Ignazio la Russa told the newspaper. "If it hadn't been for the police, there would have been only small pieces left" of the attacker.

After being struck, Berlusconi collapsed, according to TV reports, and was supported by bodyguards, who rapidly placed him inside his car.

Berlusconi quickly climbed back out of the car, showing his face to the crowd, before stepping back inside and being taken to the hospital.

According to the Italian news agency AGI, Berlusconi said in the hospital: "I am bitter about this campaign of hate against me. . . . But I am still here, and they won't stop me."

"What they've done to Berlusconi is an act of terrorism," Umberto Bossi, the head of the far-right Northern League and a close Berlusconi ally, told ANSA.

The controversial prime minister, a billionaire whose business dealings and personal behavior have come under increasing fire, was attacked in 2004 in Rome's Piazza Navona by a man with a camera tripod. Berlusconi suffered a slight bruise but no major injuries. Replicas of the tripod quickly went on sale by vendors outside the Colosseum and Vatican.

De Cristofaro is a special correspondent

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