In Italy, authorities on Saturday carried out simulated terror attacks in the port city of Naples as part of the country's efforts to test its response in the event of a terrorist attack. But as rescue officers responded to the anti-terrorism drill, two ambulances crashed for real, injuring five people.
After the July terror attacks in London, Italian authorities decided to carry out the Autumn Emergency 2005 - maneuvers to test the country's preparedness for a terrorist attack. Simulated attacks have already been carried out in Milan and Rome. Naples' preparedness was tested on Saturday. The main purpose of the drills is to test the response of police and rescue officers. The targets this time were four.
The first alarm was at nine o'clock in the morning, when an emergency call reported the explosion of a device on a bus in the area of the city's major hotels. Minutes later a fake suicide bomber killed himself inside the port. Then, a suspect backpack filled with explosives was found at the main railway station and then another fake bomb exploded on a local underground train.
Over 700 police, medical and rescue officers were involved in operation, which lasted about one and a half hours. To give the operation an added note of authenticity, authorities even issued figures for those killed or wounded. They said 30 people died and over 100 were injured in the simulated attacks.
Cars were unable to circulate in the areas involved by the drills. Smoke rose from the explosions and the sirens of ambulances could be heard across the city.
As they responded to the simulated emergency, two ambulances crashed for real. They collided head-on as they sped to the scene of the attack at the railway station. Five people were injured.
All of the injured were ambulance crew members, two of whom had to be hospitalized with suspected broken bones. Another real victim of the drill was a young female volunteer who suffered a panic attack after a fake explosion on an underground railway train.
The government's top administrative official, Renato Profili, said he was moderately satisfied with the exercise and that another drill would be held in February next year.
Naples Mayor Rosa Russo Jervolino expressed satisfaction with the drill. She said Naples citizens could feel a sense of security given the successful outcome.
Italy's interior minister, Giuseppe Pisanu, announced the anti-terror drills in August. The decision led to speculation that authorities had information about a possible terror attack in Italy. Rome has troops in Iraq and there have been fears that Italy is a possible target.
But Mr. Pisanu played down any connection between the maneuvers and Italy's role in Iraq. He said Italians were under no greater threat than any other European nation but Italy must be ready to react should the need arise. With the Winter Olympics due to be held in Turin in February 2006 authorities want to make sure everything is in place to ensure security. Another drill is expected soon in Turin.