Brindisi School Bombing (May 19, 2012)

Acts of violence may seem random but there is usually an underlying motive, even if it is nebulous at best.

BRINDISI, ITALY — If you are really angry at someone, or anyone, or life in general what do you do? Do you write a nasty email or post something vile online? Do you go to a street corner and rail randomly at passersby? Do you get in someone’s face and accost them? Do you build a bomb and attack a school?

There are definitely times when we all feel enraged, even if we cannot quite put our finger on what it is that is enraging us. On those occasions where we lash out violently it is sometimes really hard in hindsight to figure out why we did it. This can include mass casualty events.

Do you remember Stephen Paddock? He was the gunman who, in October 2017, rented a hotel room in Las Vegas, brought in a veritable arsenal of weapons, and proceeded to open fire on concert goers down below, killing 58 and wounding hundreds.

He also took his own life before law enforcement could arrest him and that is where things took an interesting turn. He left no manifesto, no suicide note, no explanation whatsoever for why he did what he did. This makes determining a motive impossible (there were reports he was ‘heavily influenced’ by his father, supposedly a ‘notorious’ bank robber in the 1960s and 1970s, but for the life of me I cannot see a link between his father’s actions and his slaughter of concert goers).

On this day in 2012, a 69-year old man exploded a bomb in a garbage bin at a school in the Italian city of Brindisi killing a 16-yr old girl and wounding 9.

When we look at Paddock’s acts we are hard-pressed to categorise them. Was this a terrorist act? We simply do not know and probably never will. Terrorism requires an underlying political, ideological or religious motive and we have none of that. What we do have is a horrid act of mass violence and no explanation.

The chaos in Las Vegas

Which brings me to today’s featured attack.

On this day in 2012 Giovanni Vantaggiato bombed a school in the southern Italian city of Brindisi in which a 16-year old girl was killed and nine others were wounded, some seriously. The bomb was placed in a garbage bin and exploded as students were arriving for morning classes.

Vantaggiato admitted carrying out the bombing, without giving a motive: he was believed to have been in financial difficulties at the time. Police also looked into whether he had a vendetta against someone at the school. He was sentenced to life in prison by a Brindisi court in June 2013. It was later learned that he had executed another bombing in February 2008, also in Brindisi.

What do we make of this? Is it terrorism? Normally I would say yes, as the use of bomb is a classic terrorist MO going way back to the anarchists of the 19th century. And yet there is no appreciable motive. So we are stuck for an answer.

Just as we were in 2017 with Stephen Paddock. Some acts will never be fully understood. I know how frustrating that is but that is how it is.

Phil Gurski
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