The bookshop and café in Rome was scheduled to re-open on Thursday after renovation work following another blaze on April 25.
Traces of flammable liquid were found at the scene, sources said. Carabinieri and firefighters will be investigating the cause of the fire and are not ruling out it was an arson attack, possibly linked to the local drug trade, investigative sources said on Wednesday.
The owner of the bookshop La Pecora Elettrica [The Electric Sheep] in Rome’s Centocelle district said his shop was targeted by arsonists. “Last night’s fire destroyed it again”, he said.
“They got in and set everything on fire”, he said of the alleged arsonists.
A previous arson attack completely destroyed the store in April this year. Police said there might be a link between the two fires and one that broke out in a shop across the street last month.
The two shops, which were the only ones open at night, may have been disturbing local drug pushers working in an adjacent park, police said. It is the most plausible hypothesis at this point, given that the shop is within walking distance of a park that at night becomes “off limits”. Twenty days ago the same fate had happened to a place just in front of the bistro.
Lazio Governor and Democratic Party (PD) leader Nicola Zingaretti called the bookshop “a place of culture and socialization”.
“It was set on fire tonight after last April’s fire”, Zingaretti wrote on Twitter. “To the owners I say: hang in there and fight to give back to Rome the beauty and passion of your social commitment”.
“The umpteenth fire at La Pecora Elettrica in Rome is disturbing,” the mayor Virginia Raggi said on Twitter.
“This is a declaration of war,” says Christian Raimo, Councilor for Culture of the III Municipality in Rome, “and it is right that the institutions should respond with the same currency. It is a very serious attack, in a place that has become fundamental for the neighbourhood, families and passing people.”
Escorted by the carabinieri, the Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism Dario Franceschini visited the site. “The fact that there was a further attack is of absolute gravity. When books are burned it is terrible and this bookshop was committed to the themes of human rights and anti-fascism,” he said.