A man threw a statue at Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, striking and injuring the Italian leader in the face during a rally Sunday in Milan, police said.


Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi leaves Duomo Square with blood on his face after the statue-throwing incident. ((Paolo Bona/Reuters))

Police said they were questioning a suspect, Massimo Tartaglia, 42, who was arrested immediately after the attack, which took place as Berlusconi, 73, was signing autographs near his car.

Tartaglia has no criminal record, police said, but he suffered psychological problems in the past.

Officials at Milan's police headquarters, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the attacker was wielding a miniature statue of Milan's Duomo, the city's gargoyled cathedral, but couldn't say what the souvenir was made of.

Italian TV showed Berlusconi with blood under his nose and on his mouth as aides lifted him to his feet and hustled him into a car after the attack.

He then got out of the vehicle, apparently in an effort to show he was not badly injured. After looking out into the crowd, Berlusconi got back inside the vehicle.

The attack occurred shortly after Berlusconi gave a speech to thousands of supporters from his Freedom Party around 6:30 p.m. local time.

Sky TG24 TV said he was taken to a Milan hospital to be treated. Berlusconi suffered a "small fracture" of the nose, two broken teeth and an injury to the inside and outside of his lip, said Paolo Klun, chief spokesman for Milan's San Raffaele Hospital.

He wanted to go home right away, but he is being kept overnight for observation, Klun said.

The attack comes at a difficult political time for Berlusconi, who has been plagued by scandals.

On Dec. 5, tens of thousands of Italians fed up with the prime minister marched peacefully through Rome to demand his resignation.

The demonstrators rallied over what they allege are Berlusconi's conflict of interests, citing repeated government-backed laws they contend were tailored to help shield Berlusconi from prosecution in cases involving his media, real estate and sports empire. Berlusconi claims the laws benefit all citizens.

Other critics cited Berlusconi's sex scandals. His wife is divorcing him after complaining about his infatuation with young women.

With files from The Associated Press