---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 20 Mar 2002 21:35:36 -0800
From: radtimes <email@example.com>
Subject: Red Brigades: the next generation?
Red Brigades: the next generation?
by Melinda Henneberger
The New York Times
Thursday, March 21, 2002
Italian adviser's slaying revives fears of domestic terrorism
BOLOGNA - A five-pointed star, the trademark of the Italian terrorist group
known as the Red Brigades, has been scrawled on the apartment building of a
government adviser who was assassinated outside his home here.
Italy's interior minister, Claudio Scajola, said Wednesday that the police
had every reason to believe that a second-generation of Red Brigades - a
new group that has adopted the same name as the leftist guerrillas active
here in the 1970s and 1980s - was responsible for the shooting of the
adviser, Marco Biagi, on Tuesday night.
Investigators said flatly Wednesday that they had no doubt Biagi was slain
over his controversial efforts to help Silvio Berlusconi's center-right
government rewrite Italian labor law in a way that would make it easier to
fire workers. The unions, and the left in general, vehemently oppose any
challenge to the current labor law, which effectively guarantees many
workers lifetime job security.
At the same time, Berlusconi ran on a platform of labor reform, and his
promises to make Italy's economy more competitive were a key to his
electoral success because they assured him the support of the
Two gunmen on a motorcycle, who fired on Biagi as he arrived home from work
on his bicycle here Tuesday night, may even have used the same gun that
killed another government aide in 1999, Scajola said.
Three years ago, the Red Brigades claimed responsibility for the killing of
another top Labor Ministry adviser, Massimo D'Antona. Like Biagi, D'Antona,
a consultant to a center-left government, had been working on labor reform
at the time he was killed.
"According to the first results," of ballistics tests done Wednesday,
Scajola said, "the gun is the same as that used in the D'Antona crime,
which confirms the claim that we are dealing with the Red Brigades."
He based these comments on reports from ballistics experts who had examined
9mm cartridges found at the scene. Rome prosecutors, meanwhile, were a bit
more cautious in their reading of the same test results and said the weapon
used by the killers in the two cases seemed to have been similar.
The Italian news service ANSA reported Wednesday that someone claiming to
represent the Red Brigades had called a newspaper to take responsibility
for the killing.
The first group by that name was formed in 1973 and carried out a number of
bombings and assassinations here, including the kidnapping and slaying of
former Prime Minister Aldo Moro in 1978.
The police said Wednesday they were not sure how long the Red Brigades
symbol had been on Biagi's door, and many in the crowd of neighbors who
stopped by his home to pay their respects said such graffiti was common in
the city center where he lived.
But Italians clearly do fear that the killing could signal a resurgence of
domestic terrorism. Across the country Wednesday, thousands of people from
all parties demonstrated against both political violence and the violent
rhetoric that has characterized the debate over labor law.
The European affairs minister, Rocco Buttiglione, said Wednesday that the
killing was the work of people who wanted a civil war.
An intelligence report to Parliament last week had warned of the risk of
terror attacks in response to the conservative government's policies.
The parliamentary report said targets could include people "from politics,
unions or the business world who are most committed to economic, social and
labor reforms, especially those who play a crucial role as experts or
The newspaper La Repubblica reported Wednesday that Biagi had feared for
Here in Bologna on Wednesday afternoon, the Piazza Maggiore was packed for
a protest organized by labor unions. A number of people in the crowd argued
that because union opposition to labor changes had been undermined by the
killing, it could just as easily have been carried out by the Italian
secret service as by leftist terrorists.
Biagi, 52, a respected economist and law professor who had worked for both
center-right and center-left governments, will be given a state funeral.
His assailants shot him twice in the neck, and he died en route to a
hospital. Many of those who came by his home Wednesday arrived on their own
bicycles in tribute.
A number of his former students were among those who left flowers and notes
outside his apartment in Bologna's former Jewish ghetto, where he lived
with his wife and two children.
One handwritten note said, "I'm so sad I will never have the chance to
thank you for all you have did for me while I was studying with you."
Another message, apparently left by a stranger, said, "I want to thank you
for having served the country with a sense of conscience and competence."
Berlusconi said the government would continue to push for labor reforms and
said he hoped unions would resume talks with the government "in honor of
Marco Biagi, a man of moderation and dialogue."
Union leaders said they would continue to work against the changes. At a
meeting March 27, they said Wednesday, they will decide whether to proceed
with plans to declare a general strike in April.
A labor demonstration that had been planned for Saturday in Rome will still
be held, union leaders said, but will now be a protest against violence
instead of against the proposed changes.
To protest the killing, the labor leaders also asked workers to walk off
the job two hours before quitting time Wednesday.
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