Urban Terrorism in Italy (1969-1980)


Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
International Program
Kim, Kyun
Term Paper, AP European History Class, May 2007



Table of Contents


I. Introduction
II. Stage of Tension
III. Important Events
III.1 The Piazza Fontana Bombing 1969
III.2 The Golpe Borghese 1970
III.3 The Peteano Attack 1972
III.4 The Attempt to Assassinate Mariano Rumor 1973
III.5 The Piazza della Loggia Bombing 1974
III.6 The Murder of Aldo Moro 1978
III.7 The Bologna Massacre 1980
IV. Conclusion
V. References


I. Introduction :
            Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, a series of violence terrified Italy. The term "years of lead" is the word used to describe this period. Several political organizations conducted violent actions such as assassinations or bomb attacks. Not only the terrorist attacks, but also identifying, capturing and punishing the perpetrators caused problems because of the authority's ttempt to use the situation.

II. Strategy of Tension
            Strategy of tension is a method to control public opinion by means of fear. propaganda and distorted information. Italian authorities used this strategy to gain popularity. Furthermore, western intelligence agencies including CIA and Gladio, the secret stay-behind operation under NATO in Italy were deeply related to the strategy for their own interest.
            Neofascists were responsible for a large share of the terrorist attacks in the years of lead. According to statistics established by the Ministry of Interior of Italy, 67.5% of the violent acts in this period was committed by the right including neofascists, 26.5% was by the left, and 5.95% by others. However, in many cases, anarchists or the lefts were first to be arrested and convicted of the violence. They were interrogated with illegal methods such as detaining suspects for long time without a trial, employing fake witnesses, and inventing false evidence.
            The goal of the strategy was to make people to believe that left organizations hold the whole responsibility of the terrorist attacks. By the means of controling public opinion, authority attempted to prevent Italian Communist Party (PCI) from joining the national unity government ruled by Christian Democracy (DC). Western intelligence agencies supported the idea of attributing whole responsibility of terrorism to the left-wingers. To damage popularity of the left, CIA and NATO secretly helped strategy of tension including false flag bombings.
            Felice Casson, a judge dealing with the case of the Peteano attack in 1972 took big part in figuring out the existence of collaboration of the right-wing organization Ordine Nuovo with Italian Military Secret Service (SID). Italian authority and Ordine Nuovo together manufactured false-flag terrorism of the far left organization. Furthermore, authority committed crime of investigation diversion, which means police officers and false witnesses were employed to make communist people convicted. Specific cases are listed in the following section.

III. Important Events

III.1 The Piazza Fontana Bombing 1969
            The Piazza Fontana bombing marked the start of "years of lead". In 12 December 1969 a bomb exploded at the offices of Banca Nazionale dell'Agricoltura, or National Agrarian Bank, in Piazza Fontana, Milan, Italy. Sixteen people were killed and ninety people were injured by the bombing.
            The Piazza Fontana bombing was first attributed to anarchists or left extremists. Approximately 4,000 people were immediately arrested by the Italian police. Among those arrested people included Giuseppe Pinelli. He was detained by Italian police for three days, longer than the time that people can be detained without a trial stated in the law. During this illegal detainment, he was defenestrated from the Milan police station. This event occurred on 15 December 1969, and his death provoked large scale movement against transgressions by the authorities.
            The real perpetrator was not from the left but from the neofascist side. However, it took many years of investigation to find out the truth. Ordine Nuovo, a neofascist organization convicted of the bombing. Pietro Valpreda, a famous anarchist who was arrested for the bombing, had to spend years in prison before being proven to be innocent. Because of the baseless conviction to the lefts and political intrigue behind it, the Piazza Fontana bombing is also considered as the start of the strategy of tension.

III.2 The Golpe Borghese 1970
            The Golpe Borghese is the name of an attempt at Coup d'etat. It was to take place on 8, December, 1970. However, it failed and members of the National Front were arrested. In the inquiry, some former army majors including Mario Rose and Remo Orlandini were arrested. Junio Valerio Borghese, a general participated in World War II, was regarded as the head of Fascism and Anti-Communism so was deeply involved in The Golpe Borghese. The fact that it was named after him shows his position in the Fascist society. With the "War Hero", Fascists prepared for coup, but failed, and Borghese fled to Spain.
            The influence of the event reaches to the arrest of Vito Miceli, the former head of Servizio Informazioni Difesa (SID), Italian military secret service from 1965 to 1977. He was convicted of "conspiration against the state" in 1974. He was arrested because of his attempt to cover the criminals up. Because of the arrest, structure of the government was reorganized. In 1977, the SID was dissolved and its jobs were distributed to the current or Military Intelligence and Security Service (SISMI), the Service for Information and Democratic Security (SISDE), and the Executive Committee for Intelligence and Security Services (CESIS). Parliamentary Committee on Secret services control (Copaco) was also created to supervise activities of SISMI at the same year.

III.3 The Peteano Attack 1972
            In the Peteano attack in May 31, 1972 three carabinieri, or military police officers, were killed. At first, leftists were accused of the bombing. However, it is found out later that neofascist terrorist Vincenzo Vinciguerra was the one who committed the bombing. The trial's importance was that his testified of secret government organizations and their relationship with the strategy of tension.
            Judge Casson's profound investigation found out that Marco Morin an expert of explosives who worked for the Italian police and participated in Ordine Nuovo intentionally provided false expertise on the bombing. However, his claim that the explosive used for the Peteano attack by the Red Brigades was proven false by Casson. Casson's investigation found out that the explosive was what used by NATO, and was actually provided by the secret army, Gladio. Vincenzo Vinciguerra's testimony that SID protected him and helped to flee to Spain. He even mentioned NATO as the behind supporter of terrorist attacks performed by the neofascist organization.

III.4 The Attempt to Assassinate Mariano Rumor 1973
            In spite of the string of violent acts committwed in Italy, Mariano Rumor, the Interior Minister, refused to proclaim the state of emergency. At the burial of Luigi Calabresi, a police officer who was killed by assassination, a bomb exploded killing four and injuring forty five. It was on 17 May, 1973, and Gianfranco Bertoli was arrested for the terrorism.
            Gianfranco Bertoli, who claimed that he was an anarchist, howevere, was found out later to have been actually a SID informant and a member of Gladio. It indicates that strategy of tension is also behind the bombing. For the attempt to cover up the truth, General Gianadelio Maletti was convicted in 1990. An Investigation found out that as a leader of SID from 1971 to 1975, general Maletti knew about the bombing beforehand, but did not try to prevent it. In testimony, he declared that "The CIA, following the directives of its government, wanted to create an Italian nationalism capable of halting what it saw as a slide to the left and, for this purpose, it may have made use of right-wing terrorism" (Willan). Again, Italy saw the evidence of the strategy of tension.

III.5 The Piazza della Loggia Bombing 1975
            On May 28, 1974, Piazza della Loggia bombing took place in Brescia killing eight people and injuring over ninety people. It happened during an Anti-Fascist protest, so a member of the far-right movement in Brescia was arrested, and sentenced to imprisonment. However, the sentence was cancelled in 1983 and the suspect was released in 1985 by the Court of Cassation. The second investigation also did not have much result because of the lack of evidence, and the third one is still in process.

III.6 The Murder of Aldo Moro 1978
            Aldo Moro, the five-time Prime Minister, was kidnapped, imprisoned, and murdered by the Red Brigades in 1978. He was kidnapped on March 16, 1978 and killed after 54 days of captivity. The murder gave huge shock to Italian society as a whole, because he was one of the most renowned politicians who was one of Prime Ministers in Italy who took the position for longest time.
            The Red Brigades, established in 1970 is a terrorist group that pursue Marxism. The group's goal is to upturn the Italian government, and establish revolutionary state according to Marxism. They pursue the goal by means of military actions. The Red Brigades is believed to be responsible for many other urban terrorist acts apart from the murder of Aldo Moro. At the time of the murder, Mario Moretti was the leader of the Red Brigades.
            Even though the problem that who killed Aldo Moro is clear, the circumstances or the reason of the murder is not yet perfectly clarified. The sequence of the murder was actually damaging to the left wingers including Red Brigades. Not only the extreme left wingers were persecuted, but also moderate left organizations including PCI, which had been very popular lost some of their fame.

III.7 The Bologna Massacre 1980
            A very powerful bomb exploded at the Central Station of Bologna, Italy on 2 August, 1980 to kill eighty five people and injure more than two hundred people. This bombing is also considered to be the part of the strategy of tension because many people were convicted of obstructing the investigation. The authority pointed out the Red Brigades to be the criminal. However, the neofascist organization Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari had been proven to be the real group to commit the bombing.
            As the result of trials that lasted for years, the Court of Cassation announced the final sentence on 23 November, 1995. It sentenced to life time imprisonment Valerio Fioravanti and Francesca Mambro, who were members of the Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari, for committing acts of terrorism. The court also punished people from SISMI and the head of masonry lodge, Licio Gelli for intentionally obfuscating the investigation.

IV. Conclusion
            Many terrorist attacks during 1970s and early 1980s in Italy resulted in the killing and injuring of people. The Years of lead, the term indicating the violent period, were created not only by attacks of real terrorists, but also by attempts from organizations forming part of the authority, or at least supported by elements within the authority, to use incessant terrorist attacks for its political interest - to stop the left organizations from getting popularity.
            It is true that both left wingers and right wingers conducted terrorist acts in the years of lead. The violence represented by the Red Brigades' murder of Aldo Moro, certainly shows that the extreme left had responsibility. However, the right wingers are also reprehensible because of their attempt to dishonor the left wingers by means of false flag bombings and attribution of whole responsibility of terrorism to the left wingers. This attempt, described by the term "strategy of tension", worsen the situation. And because of this concealment, some of the cases are still not clarified.

V. Bibliography

Note : websites listed below were visited in May 2007.
1.      Willan, Philip. The Guardian, March 26, 2001. Terrorists 'helped by CIA' to stop rise of left in Italy
2.      Article : History of Italy (1970s-1980s), from Wikipedia, 29 May 2007, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Years_of_Lead_%28Italy%29
3.      Article : Bologna Massacre, from Wikipedia, 30 April 2007, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bologna_massacre
4.      Claudio Celani, Strategy of Tension : the Case of Italy (2004), http://www.larouchepub.com/other/2004/3117tension_italy.html
5.      James Heddlesten, Comando Supremo : Junio Valerio Borghese
6.      Richard Drake, Mythmaking & the Aldo Moro Case, New Criterion Nov. 1998, http://www.newcriterion.com/archive/17/nov98/drake.htm
7.      Anne Schimel, Justice << de plomb >> en Italie, in Le Monde Diplomatique 1998, http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/1998/04/SCHIMEL/10247
8.      Robert Katz, The Man Who Killed Aldo Moro, http://www.theboot.it/aldo_moro_op-ed.htm