Page last updated at 22:53 GMT, Sunday, 13 December 2009

Italy's PM Silvio Berlusconi is bloodied by attack


The moment Berlusconi was attacked

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy is recovering in hospital after an assault left his face covered in blood following a rally in Milan.

He suffered two broken teeth, a minor nose fracture and cuts to his lip after being struck by a man wielding a souvenir model of the city's cathedral.

Mr Berlusconi, 73, tried to assure supporters afterwards he was OK.

The alleged attacker, who has a history of mental illness, has been charged with throwing the souvenir.

Alleged attacker Massimo Tartaglia being detained at the scene
Alleged attacker Massimo Tartaglia was detained at the scene

Massimo Tartaglia, 42, had no previous criminal record, police were quoted as saying.

After the attack on Sunday evening the prime minister, looking dazed, was helped to his feet by aides and put in a car. He got out and tried to climb on the car to show he was all right, before being driven away.

It was a typical show of defiance by a political fighter, says the BBC's Duncan Kennedy in Rome.

Mr Berlusconi insisted he was well at the hospital.

'Metal or plaster'

Duncan Kennedy (archive image)
Duncan Kennedy, BBC News, Rome

The attack will undoubtedly raise questions about security surrounding the prime minister.

Like most heads of government, he travels with a large team of body guards and aides but Mr Berlusconi is a gregarious figure who likes to mingle with ordinary people.

He is also a divisive individual in Italian politics, with opinion polls showing a broad split between voters.

After months of personal scandal involving his private life, he has become an even more polarising leader, though the motivation for this physical attack is not yet clear.

Mr Berlusconi had been greeting supporters in a square in Milan when the assault took place.

There are said to have been scuffles between hecklers and security staff during the rally.

At one point in his speech, Mr Berlusconi responded to his critics in Italy by declaring himself to be "good-looking" and "a decent chap".

The Italian leader was apparently signing autographs when he was struck with the souvenir.

Video of the assault shows Mr Berlusconi suddenly grimacing in pain.

It is not clear from the footage what happened but the object appears to have been thrown at his face.

Police charged Mr Tartaglia with aggravated assault for hurling the miniature replica at Mr Berlusconi.

Italy's Silvio Berlusconi physically attacked in street in December 2004 in Rome, and December 2009 in Milan
Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan punched in the stomach by a man as he is about to deliver a speech Trabzon, August 2009
New Zealand's John Key shoved and grabbed by two protesters at Maori event, February 2009

The replica of the cathedral, famous for its gothic spires, was initially said to be made of metal but later reports suggested it was plaster.

Under pressure

The Italian prime minister was previously assaulted in the street on New Year's Eve 2004, when a tourist visiting Rome struck him with a camera at a rally in the capital's Piazza Navona.

His attacker, a bricklayer from northern Italy, reportedly told police he had attacked Mr Berlusconi because he hated him. The politician suffered a bruise.

Mr Berlusconi has been under pressure in recent months.

His private life has been in the spotlight, amid allegations that he slept with prostitutes, and after his wife filed for divorce.

He has dismissed accusations of ties to the Mafia, and criminal cases against him have resumed after a law giving him immunity was overturned.

A week ago tens of thousands of people attended an anti-Berlusconi rally in Rome.

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The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Observer Silvio Berlusconi attack stirs up Italy - 1 hr ago
Financial TimesItaly divided after attack on PM - 5 hrs ago
Times Online Berlusconi will need weeks of treatment - 9 hrs ago
Channel 4 News Berlusconi warned about attack risk - 12 hrs ago
The EconomistItalian politics: Battered Berlusconi - 13 hrs ago
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