Italy fears return to 'Years of lead'

May 28, 1999

Massimo D'Antona 51 law professor at Rome's La Sapienza University and key government adviser on labour relations, assassinated in a hit involving at least four people as he walked past the sociology faculty. He was a member of the Democrats of the Left, the largest party in the coalition.

First active in 1969, at about the same time as the Baader Meinhoff gang in Germany and the Angry Brigade in Britain, the Marxist-Leninist Red Brigades aimed to create a revolutionary state through armed struggle and split Italy from the western alliance. Most of their victims in the "years of lead" were symbols of institutions, such as politicians, businessmen and union figures.

Red Brigades blamed for kidnapping of former Italian prime minister Aldo Moro in 1978, held captive for 55 days before his body was dumped in Rome (right). But some believe the operation, in which Moro's five bodyguards were killed, was beyond its capabilities and that Moro's former political allies disliked his plan for a government of national unity.

Red Brigades kidnapped Brigadier-General Jamas Dozior (below), the highest ranking US Nato officer in Italy (rescued in a raid on their hideout in northern Italy) in 1981 and claimed responsibility for the murder of Leamon Hunt, the American head of the Sinai Multinational Force and Observer Group in 1984.

In 1984 the group split into two factions - the Communist Combatant Party and the Union of Combatant Communists.

In 1989 many of its leaders were arrested by Italian and French authorities and placed on trial (above).

1988: Rohorto Ruffilli, academic and advser to Christian Democratic Prime Minister Ciriaco De Mita, was Italy's last political assassination - until now.

A bomb attack on the Nato Defence College building in Rome in January 1995 was claimed by the Red Brigades.

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