Updated | Man targeted in car bomb explosion

Police sources say ‘bomb’ caused car explosion • Driver in danger of dying

Darren Degabriele with his partner Stephanie Tonna (Photo: Facebook)
Darren Degabriele with his partner Stephanie Tonna (Photo: Facebook)
Zejtun Road in Marsaxlokk is currently closed to traffic (Photo: Maltese Roads Traffic Updates/Facebook)
Zejtun Road in Marsaxlokk is currently closed to traffic (Photo: Maltese Roads Traffic Updates/Facebook)
(Photo: Malta Dizastru Totali/Facebook)
(Photo: Malta Dizastru Totali/Facebook)

At least six persons have been questioned by the police after a restaurateur was targeted in a car bomb attack yesterday in Marsaxlokk.

Darren Degabriele, 35 of Hal Ghaxaq, was injured in the blast from his car after a bomb detonated, police sources said. Remains of a bomb were found, with police naturally assuming that Degabriele was the target.

Preliminary investigations suggest that the bomb was tied to the vehicle’s outer chassis, placed underneath the passenger’s seat. Members of the Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) unit were called in to examine the remains of the bomb.

Witnesses said the driver and the passenger got out of the car before collapsing onto the road, in Zejtun Road, Marsaxlokk.

Degabriele, owner of the Gente di Mare restaurant in Marsaxlokk, was hospitalised, suffering from grievous injuries and is in danger of dying. He is also a director-shareholder of Degabriele Fuels.

A second person, a 28-year-old woman from Birkirkara was hospitalised due to the smoke inhaled.

On Facebook, Degabriele's girlfriend called for prayers for her loved one.

“You always told me, I was your charger for your battery. To me you are everything Dar, please don't leave me alone xxxx. Thank you for all the messages, we need your prayers,” Stephanie Tonna wrote.

She also uploaded a picture the two had taken together a few days ago and urged her boyfriend to keep strong.

According to the Police’s communications office, the explosion caused a collision among three other cars.

A hawker who was on his way home after finishing from a day’s work at Marsaxlokk, said he saw a Pajero exploding before his eyes and moments of panic ensued: to avoid the burning vehicle, a second car swerved and rammed into his van. Witnesses said they saw the driver and the passenger getting out of the car before collapsing on the road.

Reports in the media yesterday suggested that Degabriele was known to the police. Online court judgements show that he had been cleared of accusations of forging a cheque.

A magisterial inquiry is underway, led by Magistrate Ian Farrugia and assisted by court experts Brigadier Jeffrey Curmi, Prof. Alfred Vella, architect Richard Aquilina and procurator Mario Buttigieg.

A search for remains of the bomb was also conducted with the help of the police dog section.
The car bomb attack also attracted a number of high-ranking police officers, including deputy commissioners Raymond Zammit and Pierre Calleja, and assistant commissioner Silvio Valletta.

Investigators included district inspector Carol Fabri and CID inspectors Keith Arnaud, Michael Mallia and Saviour Baldacchino.