Forest that spelled 'Dux' - Mussolini's Latin moniker - destroyed by fire

A pine forest in Lazio that spelled out the world 'Dux', the Latin nickname given to Italy's wartime fascist dictator Benito Mussolini by his followers was severely damaged by a wildfire, fire brigade said on Friday.

A man was reported to police for allegedly starting the fire on Monte Giano near Rieti while trying to cook some tomatoes, according to fire brigade.

The 20,000 pine trees were planted on the mountainside by forestry students in honour of Mussolini in 1939 and later declared a natural monument.

Mussonlini was known as Il Duce (The Duke) in Italian. 'Dux' is the Latin translation.

Far-right group CasaPound said it would re-plant the forest and giant letters of the Duce's name.

"It survived 70 years of militant anti-fascism and we won't allow it to be wiped out by the careless act of a fool," the group said.