UK & World News
Nazi War Criminal's Funeral Halted By Protests
The body of Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke is expected to be sent to Germany for burial after his funeral in Italy was stopped by violent protests.
The former SS officer, who died last week at the age of 100, was to be laid to rest in the town of Albano Laziale near Rome, but police halted the funeral after neo-Nazi sympathisers broke into the seminary as hundreds of protesters outside shouted "Assassin!".
Priebke was in charge of troops who massacred 335 civilians in the Ardeatine Caves in March 1944. He had been living under house arrest in the Italian capital since being sentenced to life imprisonment for the killings in 1998.
His coffin has now been taken to a military airport outside Rome.
"We are planning to resolve the situation today. We are in contact with Germany," said local official Giuseppe Pecoraro.
"We had to cancel the funeral yesterday because there was a risk that it could have become a neo-Nazi demonstration."
Anti-fascist protesters had kicked and spat on the hearse as it arrived for the start of the funeral. A priest was heckled with the shout of "Shame".
At least two people were detained as clashes broke out and some people were seen fighting with bottles and chains.
A rock was later thrown at the windscreen of the van driving Priebke's coffin to the airport.
The Vatican had issued an unprecedented order forbidding any Roman Catholic church in Rome from holding his funeral.
But a fringe right-wing group, the Catholic Society of St Pius (SSPX), went ahead with the ceremony anyway.
In a statement, the society said it agreed to perform the funeral at the family's request because "no matter what the guilt or sins" anyone who dies reconciled with God and the Church "has the right to celebrate Mass and a funeral".
Priebke had wanted to be buried in Argentina, from where he was extradited to face trial, next to his wife, but the government there earlier said it would not accept the body.
Jewish groups and relatives of the people he executed said his body should be cremated and his ashes scattered to erase every trace.
The furore comes at a particularly sensitive time in Italy on the anniversary of the round-up of the Jews from the Rome Ghetto on October 16, 1943.
More than 1,000 Jews were taken away to concentration camps and only 16 returned.