Italian PM injured in attack at political rally

08:25, December 14, 2009      

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Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (C) reacts after being assaulted in Milan. Berlusconi was rushed to hospital after a man with a history of mental problems attacked him, knocking out two of his teeth, following a political rally in Milan Sunday. (Xinhua/AFP Photo)

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was attacked, injured in the face by a protester and hospitalized shortly after a political meeting in Milan on Sunday evening.

Berlusconi was signing autographs when a man from the crowd threw at him a statuette representing the Milan Dome, making his nose and mouth deeply bleed, state-run television RAI reported.

Under shock, the prime minister was then rushed into a car and driven away to a nearby hospital for first aid assistance. Upon reaching the hospital Berlusconi told a member of his staff that he was "feeling well."

However, the prime minister's conditions are serious according to the doctor in charge of him. He has suffered a severe nose trauma, broken one of his teeth and injured his lower lip.

The prime minister would spent the night at the hospital and be kept under medical control for 20 days, the doctor explained.

The attacker was a 42-year-old man called Massimo Tartaglia, allegedly suffering from serious mental problems. Following the blow the police immediately arrested him.

Tartaglia approached Berlusconi as he was leaving a rally of his People of Freedom (PdL) party, aimed at increasing support in advance of the March regional elections.

The man hid among a small group of protesters who were shouting slogans and whistling at the prime minister. Then, unnoticed by the security, he threw the statuette at Berlusconi's face.

Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi leaves Duomo's square with blood on his face after a political party meeting in Milan December 13, 2009. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

According to people who spoke to Berlusconi, the prime minister said to be "very disappointed and afflicted by the attack, which is the result of all the poison" lately thrown at him.

He added, however, that he will not let the episode affect him, stressing that "I am still here and no one can stop me."

Undersecretary of State Paolo Bonaiuti said the attack was part of the campaign of hate and violence launched against the prime minister.

"This is the consequence of the political tensions of these days. While we were in the car going to the rally Berlusconi told me to be very worried and said he hoped nothing would happen," Bonaiuti recalled.

"But unfortunately this time something very serious did occur," he said.

Italy's political scene has been lately rocked by fierce contrasts between the opposition and the judiciary on one side, and Berlusconi and his center-right government on the other.

The prime minister has repeatedly accused the "communist left" of conducting a personal fight against him.

All Berlusconi's allies condemned the assault linking it to the on-going political tensions and hate campaign.

Two hours after the assault, a new "Tartaglia fans club" had opened on Facebook Italy, strong of already 9,000 supporters.

President Giorgio Napolitano urged political and institutional forces to "tune-down" and recover a peaceful dialogue.

Before being hit, at the rally the prime Minister had lamented that he was constantly being "painted as a monster, but I don't think I am one."

He expressed optimism and promised the government would survive the many "unjustified attacks" by the opposition and judiciary.

The prime minister had gone on listing the many successful actions so far undertaken, such as in the fight against the Mafia.

Massimo Tartaglia (C), the man who assaulted Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi outside a meeting in Milan, is held back before being arrested by Italian police for punching Berlusconi. (Xinhua/AFP Photo)

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