Police officers shot as new Italian prime minister sworn in

Shooting took place as new government of Enrico Letta took their oaths

Carabinieri police and Guardia di Finanza stand as they patrol around the area where gunshots were fired, in front of Chigi Palace, in Rome  today. Photograph: Remo Casilli/Reuters

Carabinieri police and Guardia di Finanza stand as they patrol around the area where gunshots were fired, in front of Chigi Palace, in Rome today. Photograph: Remo Casilli/Reuters

Sun, Apr 28, 2013, 13:26

Two paramilitary police officers have been shot and wounded outside the Italian prime minister’s office as the new leader was sworn in about half a mile away.

Witnesses reported seeing one officer lying on the pavement, with blood pouring out of his neck.

About 10 bullets littered the square next to the palace, which houses the offices of the premier and other government officials.

Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno said a third person, a woman who was passing by, was also injured.The shooting produced panic in the square as people tried to flee.

The suspected gunman, dressed in a dark business suit, was immediately grabbed by other police in the square, wrestled to the ground and then taken away. Italian news reports said the man is Luigi Prieti, a 49-year-old man from the southern region of Calabria who now lives in the northern Piedmont region. New justice minister Anna Maria Cancellieri said the attack “has the appearance of being carried out by an unbalanced man” but she did not elaborate on the evidence for that claim.

The shooting came as Enrico Letta and his Cabinet took their oaths today in the Quirinal presidential office after he agreed a coalition agreement between his centre-left forces and the conservative bloc of former premier Silvio Berlusconi.

It was unclear if there was any connection between the events but political tensions have been running high in Italy.

Italy’s state police chief raced to the scene. An aide to foreign minister Emma Bonino told reporters at the presidential palace that the new Cabinet members were being kept inside until the situation became more clear.

The shooting immediately sparked ugly memories of the 1970s and 1980s when domestic terrorism plagued Italy during a time of high political tensions between right-wing and left-wing blocs.

Agencies