Italy: armed left re-emerges?

Italian police claim to have averted a major terrorist incident after the arrest of 15 men and women in northern Italy, who they said were members of the Red Brigades. The alleged leader of the plot, Alfredo Davanzo, 50, imprisoned for 10 years in the 1980s for Red Brigades actions, has declared himself a political prisoner. Police said the group was planning attacks on the home of Silvio Berlusconi, the offices of his TV company Mediaset and of News Corporation’s Sky Italia, the office of right-wing daily Libero, and of ENI, Italy’s principal oil company.

Also supposedly targeted was Pietro Ichino, a Milan labor professor accused by the militants of helping the government weaken employment laws, making it simpler to sack workers and to hire replacements on a casual basis. Ichino is the latest in a long line of experts in the field to be targeted. In an article in Corriere della Sera Feb. 13, he named seven predecessors in his field who had been killed or gravely wounded by armed militants. The most recent was Marco Biagi, a government labor adviser assassinated in 2002.

Police claimed the new Red Brigades cell was uncovered after a woman in Milan reported a bicycle in her cellar equipped with a hidden microcamera and radio transmitter. Eavesdropping work led police to addresses in Milan, Turin and Padua, where the arrests were made Feb. 12.

Police said they filmed night exercises conducted by the militants where they trained with an Uzi and a Kalashnikov rifle in the Veneto countryside. But there have been no reports of any arms or explosives seized in the raids.

Interior Minister Giuliano Amato said: “Probably this time we succeeded in averting a Red Brigades attack.” He called the arrests “an important success” but warned: “Today’s action testifies to the presence in our country of a Red Brigades infection that has not yet been removed. We know that this one we have defeated will not be the last.”

The arrests have been greeted with cynicism by Italy’s anti-war and anti-globalization movements. On Saturday Feb. 17, a demonstration is planned in Vicenza, where the Italian government has given approval for a US military base on the outskirts of the city to be doubled in size. Radio Sherwood, a Padua-based radio station run by the anti-global movement, commented: “These arrests criminalize the whole movement which on Saturday will march to protest the redoubling in size of the base.” (Belfast Telegraph, Feb. 14)

The Italian press reports that the militants were affiliated with a Partito Comunista Politico-Militare (PCP-M), said to have emerged from the Red Brigades “Second Position” following a 1984 split in the organization. (La Repubblica, Feb. 15)

In April 2002, when Italy’s Red Brigades re-emerged with the slaying of government labor advisor Marco Biagi, we noted that the group’s recent communique had praised the 9-11 attacks and called for “the forging of alliances between anti-imperialist and revolutionary forces in the regions of Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East.” We have also noted signs of an armed left resurgence in Japan, Greece and elsewhere.

It should also be pointed out that there have been instances of Italian ultra-right factions with links to the security services carrying out armed attacks as a provocation to justify a crackdown on the hard left—most notoriously the 1980 bombing at the Bologna train station which killed 85 people, which was ultimately determined to be the work of the neo-fascist “Third Position” group. Investigations also found links between the “Third Position” terrorists and a secretive NATO program called Operation Gladio, whose ostensible purpose was to organize resistance as a “stay-behind” force in the event of a Soviet occupation of Western Europe.

See our last post on Italy.

  1. Italian armed left figure extradited from Bolivia

    An Italian ex-militant with the Armed Proletarians for Communism was captured in Bolivia and extradited to Rome Jan. 14. Cesare Battisti was found in Santa Cruz in an international police operation. He had been two years into a 12-year sentence in Italy when he escaped from prison in 1981. He was subsequently sentenced in absentia to life for four murders carried out during the 1970s. Battisti had lived for years in Brazil but vanished after an arrest warrant was issued last month. (BBC News, Al Jazeera)