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Blast injures Italian policeman during clashes with rail link demonstrators


Blast injures Italian policeman during clashes with rail link demonstrators

Riot squads fire tear gas at protesters against high-speed line between northern Italy and France

fast train
Demonstrators have clashed with Italian police over a high-speed rail link that will halve the journey time between Milan and Paris. Photograph: Eamonn Mccabe for the Guardian

A senior Italian police officer was injured on Sunday in violent clashes with demonstrators protesting against a planned high-speed rail link between France and northern Italy.

Giuseppe Petronzi, the head of a police special operations unit in Turin, was hurt by an improvised explosive device during the confrontation on Saturday night in Val di Susa in the far north of Italy, when police fired teargas at supporters of "No-Tav", the anti high-speed rail movement.

"What happened last night in Val di Susa was not a demonstration of dissent, it was violence," interior minister Annamaria Cancellieri said in a statement.

The authorities would ensure that construction work could go ahead, she added, pledging "maximum toughness" against violent demonstrations.

The latest in a long line of clashes follows months of confrontations over the high-speed rail link which has become a focus for anti-establishment protests, fuelling concern over a spike in violent demonstrations during the economic crisis.

Video footage released by police showed young black-clad demonstrators hurling rocks and flares at squads of police in riot gear around a construction site in the thickly wooded mountain valley.

Politicians on all sides condemned the violence, but police union COISP accused the government of allowing the situation to get out of hand, threatening the life of officers.

"There is a criminal hunt against police going on in Val di Susa while the government continues to underestimate the situation which is just waiting for someone to be killed," the union said in a statement.

Villagers in Val di Susa, supported by a coalition of outside activists, have held repeated demonstrations against the 15-billion-euro-project, agreed between Italy and France in 2001.

The government says the rail link, which will almost halve the time of a journey between Paris and Milan to four hours, is vital to strengthen transport links between northern Italy and the rest of the continent.

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