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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Alam-Nist

The Red Brigades And The Kidnapping Of Aldo Moro

The so-called “Years of Lead” (Anni di piombo) – which spanned over a decade, from the end of the 1960s to the early 1980s – were one of the most violent periods of political and social turmoil in Italy, with attacks from both extreme sides of the political spectrum. There were bombings, assassinations and a notorious kidnapping, which resulted in the death of the country’s former prime minister. The bloodshed reached a peak in 1979, a year in which there were 659 attacks. Although many different groups were involved in the fighting, the most prominent was without a doubt the Red Brigades (Brigate Rosse).

The Red Brigades (BR) was a communist revolutionary terrorist group formed in 1970 whose aim was to remove Italy from its NATO alliance and pave the way for a Marxist uprising, with the ultimate goal of seizing political power. Their first attacks were on property, mainly the offices and cars of those they deemed to have committed “anti-worker” actions, such as the firing of an employee. However, as support for them grew, they started planning more concerted attacks, above all against political figures. The most famous of these is the kidnapping of Italy’s former prime minister Aldo Moro.

On the morning of 16th March 1978, on its way to parliament, the car carrying Aldo Moro was intercepted by four members of the Red Brigades in Via Fani. Five bodyguards were killed, and Moro was kidnapped. In the following days, security forces carried out hundreds of raids across various Italian cities, but were unsuccessful in locating him. In fact, he had never left Rome. In the mean time Moro, still detained by the BR, wrote letters to family, fellow politicians and even Pope Paul VI.

On 15th April 1978, the Red Brigades announced that Aldo Moro had been put on trial and sentenced to death. Following this threat, they demanded the release of sixteen members of the Red Brigades from jail. Moro in his letters begged the state to comply with his kidnappers’ requests. The general consensus was that no extremists should be released, for the benefit of the population, as they would have no doubt contributed to more attacks. Some figures in the government, however, suggested that an attempt at compromise should be made, and offered the release of three members of the extreme-left group in exchange for that of the former prime minister. The state, however, remained firm in its resolve and rejected any trade-off with the terrorists.

Following fifty-five days of threats and confusion, the Red Brigades decided to put an end to the situation by killing their prisoner. After telling him that they were taking him to another hiding place, they forced him to get inside the trunk of a stolen car, ordered him to wrap himself in a blanket and shot him ten times. Moro was found on 9th May 1978 in Rome near the headquarters of the Christian Democrats (Democrazia Cristiana, DC), his own party, of which he had once been the leader and chairman.

The aftermath of Moro’s killing was chaotic to say the least. The paucity of information, the lack of evidence and the conflicting testimonies made the mystery harder to solve. Although all of the terrorists involved in the killing, as well as their associates, were later arrested and jailed, the controversy surrounding the death of Aldo Moro continues to this day, with many historians suggesting a link to Giulio Andreotti, who was Italy’s prime minister at the time of Moro’s kidnapping, and the Sicilian Mafia. There is no doubt that the murder of Aldo Moro had huge repercussions not only on Italian politics, but on the very consciousness of the country, which was deeply shaken by the events.


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