A resurgent Red Brigades group smashed earlier this week was ready to strike using automatic weapons and fake police uniforms, Italian officials said on Thursday.
The arms cache discovered Wednesday near Padua, officials said, included a kalashnikov, an Uzi, three hand guns, bulletproof vests and fake uniforms. It showed the “operational efficiency the group had reached and the danger they posed,” the government said. “It was the complete equipment needed to carry out any kind of attack,” police said.
Those arrested are accused of organising a “terrorist association constituting an armed group”. Calling itself the Political-Military Communist Party (PCPM), the group adhered to the “second position”, the so-called “movimentista” faction, of the Red Brigades (BR). The group’s members were split into three cells in Milan, Padua and Turin. Among items seized by police were the weapons they used for shooting practice in the countryside near Rovigo and Milan. Eight of those arrested are CGIL trade unionists, one of whom is believed to be the leader of the Turin cell.
Premier Romano Prodi said authorities would have to come up with “a much stronger analysis and surveillance” of “a phenomenon that has not been completely uprooted”.
“We have to be vigilant now and perhaps for a long time in the future,” Prodi said, amid signs that the suspects arrested Monday enjoyed continued support in far-left circles, some of them are very close to his government allies.
“We must never let our guard down”, the premier said, urging the trade union movement to show “greater vigilance” against being infiltrated. Seven members of Italy’s largest union CGIL were among the 15 suspects grabbed Monday with plans to hit a government aide and other targets, and more than 20 others are under criminal investigation.
In the wake of the police round-up, slogans supporting the suspected terrorists have been appearing on northern factories and websites run by far-left movements.
Among those in the terrorists’ sights was labour ministry consultant Pietro Ichino, who has been under police escort since March 2002. Ichino was given the escort right after the Red Brigades murdered labour ministry consultant Marco Biagi in Bologna.
Biagi was the second ministry aide to be shot down after Massimo D’Antona was killed by the Red Brigades in Rome in May 1999. Other targets being considered by the terrorists included a villa in Milan owned by ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, transmission towers for Berlusconi’s private TV empire and Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Italia, the Milan offices of conservative daily Libero, and facilities belonging to oil giant ENI.
The government said Thursday that none of these targets had been in “direct and immediate” danger but security around them had now been stiffened.
Italian police have been trying for years to mop up the remnants of the terror group that claimed dozens of lives in the 1970s and ’80s including that of Christian Democrat statesman Aldo Moro in 1978.
The new group has apparently been trying to recruit members in universities, factories and extraparliamentary leftist movements – as happened in the ’70s.
Italy is the only western european country where communist terrorism has never been completely uprooted. It was defeated in France, it was defeated in Germany, but not in Italy, that is also the only western country where some parties, naming themselves “communists” are in the government. Far-leftist politicians use to call a political opponents “a foe“, using some kind of military jargon, and some expressions that are more likely to be suited to a “cold civil war” than to a democratic competiton between political forces. For instance Oliviero Diliberto, the leader of the Italian Communists’ Party this week said that he wants to appear on television, even if he doesn’t like it, because he wants to stress that he’s “disgusted” by Silvio Berlusconi, the opposition leader and the preferred target of the far-left hatred. Not so strangely, these are also the terms used by communist terrorists in their statements.