A bomb exploded in front of a girls' school in southern Italy, killing a 16-year-old girl and wounding seven others with suspicion quickly falling on the local Mafia.
The explosion, near the entrance of a school named after the wife of murdered anti-Mafia judge Giovanni Falcone, occurred as girls were arriving for the start of the school day, which in Italy includes Saturdays.
Authorities said at least two gas canisters appeared to have been placed in or near rubbish containers at the school on Saturday, which local media said was located near the main court in Brindisi, a port city on the "heel" of the Italian peninsula.
"This is a tragedy," Mimmo Consales, the mayor of Brindisi, told SkyTG24 television.
There was no claim of responsibility and no indication of who had planted the bomb, but initial suspicions were directed at the local mafia, known as the United Sacred Crown.
Consales noted that the incident occurred just a few days before the 20th anniversary of the murder of Falcone and his wife, Francesca Morvillo, by a bomb in Sicily on May 23, 1992.
An anti-Mafia march had been planned in Brindisi later in the day.
"You can understand the symbolism of this and what it all signifies," he said.
The device went off just before 8am (05:00 GMT) at the Francesca Morvillo Falcone school in the Adriatic port town of Brindisi just as students were arriving for class on Saturday.
Local civil protection official Fabiano Amati told The Associated Press news agency that a 16-year-old female student died of her wounds after being taken to a hospital.
Amati told the television news channel Sky TG24 that several people were taken to hospital, and two pupils were in a critical condition.
"There was an explosive device which went off this morning just outside a high school in southern Italy in the town of Brindisi," Al Jazeera's Sabrina Castelfranco reported from Bologna, saying that the injured were taken to a local hospital.
"Three of them are going to get away without major problems, but some of the others are very seriously injured, and there could be more casualties," she said.
Few details were available and an official at the Civil Protection Authority told Reuters more than one device may have been involved in the explosion.
"Given the effect of the explosion, it appears that this was something quite powerful," the official said.
According to the website of the Repubblica newspaper, three blasts went off in front of the school, spreading panic among the pupils. The devices had apparently been left in bags in front of the school, it said.
Local media reported that the bomb had been placed in a rubbish container just outside the school, which they said was near the main court in Brindisi, a city located in Apulia, on the "heel" of Italy.
"Media speculation is saying that this is an institute that was named after the anti-Mafia prosecutor Giovanni Falcone and his wife who were killed 20 years ago and there may be some link to the name of this institute," our correspondent said.
Falcone, his wife and their three bodyguards were killed on May 23, 1992, when the Sicilian Mafia planted half a tonne of dynamite on the road between Palermo's airport and the city centre.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies