Police say Berlusconi was struck with a statuette by a man with mental problems who was immediately taken into custody.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was busy shaking hands and signing autographs after holding a political rally for his conservative supporters in Milan. Suddenly out of the blue, police say he was struck by a statuette of the Milan cathedral hurled at his face by a man in the crowd.
Moments later his face was covered in blood. The stunned leader's nose was fractured, his lip cut and two of his teeth broken. This witness described what he saw.
He said it was an object that was hurled at the prime minister. He added that people saw the prime minister, who was losing blood, accompanied by his bodyguards to a car.
The 73-year old prime minister was rushed to the San Raffaele hospital in Milan. Professor Alberto Zangrillo, his personal doctor, explained the injuries he suffered.
Zangrillo said he was with him when the incident occurred. The prime minister suffered a significant bruising trauma to his face, cuts to the inside and outside of his lip and a nose fracture. He lost a lot of blood.
The doctor added that the prime minister was very shaken and demoralized. Police immediately took the man responsible for the attack into custody. He was identified as Massimo Tartaglia, 42 years old. Police said Tartaglia did not have any criminal record but has been under treatment for mental and psychological problems for the past 10 years.
The incident triggered an outpouring of solidarity for Berlusconi from allies and critics. The prime minister's allies were quick to say the incident was the result of a campaign of "hatred" by his leftist opponents. Berlusconi has faced growing criticism in recent months amid mounting legal troubles and scandals over his private life.