February 14, 2007

Leftists Terrorists Rounded Up In Italy

The Italians prevented a literal blast from the past when they arrested 15 remnants of the Red Brigades overnight. The group may have seemed defunct, but apparently at least one cell remained operational, and it planned to attack their "capitalist" target, a Milan newspaper, in the near future:

It began with the chance discovery in a Milan basement of a very unusual bicycle. Chief Superintendent Giuseppina Suma described how, following a tip off, police had examined the bike and found "a minute camera in the front light and a radio transmitter under the saddle".

It was the start of a three-year investigation that led this week to more than 80 raids in four Italian cities and the arrest of 15 people for alleged offences that seemed like echoes of an anguished past.

Italians opening their newspapers yesterday could be forgiven for thinking they had fallen into a time warp and spiralled back to the days of flared trousers, Zapata moustaches, Bee Gee hits - and murderous far-left terrorism.

One of those arrested declared himself a "political prisoner". The media reported on clandestine newsletters solemnly assessing the "current political condition of the masses". And Italy's interior minister, Giulano Amato, said the combined operation, involving police and officers of the civil intelligence service, SISDE, showed that the last embers of the Red Brigades, founded 37 years ago, had yet to be stamped out.

Why has the group survived for so long? Perhaps because their radical Leftism hasn't fallen out of favor, even with the collapse of the Soviet regime they admired so much. Germany has decided to parole its Baader-Meinhof prisoners despite the one having collected five life sentences. This kind of nostalgia seems to run deep within European circles.

Indeed, it runs right through to the Italian ruling coalition. Italy's new prime minister, Romano Prodi, found out to his embarrassment that several of the people arrested in the raids belong to the trade-union federation that forms the core of his support. The group had targeted Prodi's political opponents, including former PM Silvio Berlusconi and media figures more aligned with the center-Right. Prodi had nothing to do with them and pursued the investigation after he took over the government from Berlusconi, but it points out how easily left-wing extremists can engage in the European political climate.

Hopefully, Italy will not learn from Germany's latest example and will treat these people as what they are: terrorists, plain and simple. Those who would use violence to intimidate duly elected governments, regardless of philosophy, are no different from those who would commit violence to impose their religion on unbelievers. It's all terrorism, and it all requires a tough and unyielding response.


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