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Brigate Rosse / Red Brigades

Formed in 1969, the Marxist-Leninist BR sought to create a revolutionary state through armed struggle and to separate Italy from the Western Alliance. In 1984 it split into two factions: the Communist Combatant Party (BR-PCC) and the Union of Combatant Communists (BR-UCC).

Originally the group concentrated on assassination and kidnapping of Italian Government and private-sector targets; it murdered former Prime Minister Aldo Moro in 1978, kidnapped US Army BGen. James Dozier in 1981, and claimed responsibility for murdering Leamon Hunt, US chief of the Sinai Multinational Force and Observer Group, in 1984.

The Red Brigades have not conducted an attack since 1988 and had been largely inactive since Italian and French police arrested many of the group's members in 1989.

Italian leftists claiming ties to the "Red Brigades for the Construction of the Combatant Communist Party" appeared to be attempting to revive the Red Brigades terrorist group. On 2 September 1996, three individuals in a stolen car fired seven shots, and one of them threw a grenade at the US Airbase in Aviano; there were no injuries. Aviano is the staging base for US aircraft enforcing the no-fly zone over Bosnia. Callers saying they represented the Red Brigades phoned three Italian newspapers on 4 September 1996 to claim responsibility for the attack. In late October, Italian police arrested nine individuals connected with the attack, including the three who were directly involved. Police identified two of those three as Red Brigades members.

Brigate Rosse probably consisted of about 50 militants when first organized; 1,000 at the point of maximum expansion in 1978-79, plus some 2,000 external supporters; 100 at the end of 1982/beginning of 1988, plus 200 external supporters. At the time of the Brigate Rosse's kidnapping of Aldo Moro (the Italian President-to-be) in 1978, it was reported that the Red Brigades consists of 400 to 500 full-time members who were on the payroll of the organization. Above ground, a second group of up to 1,000 Brigatisti live a normal existence as members of Italian society. The above-ground members of the Red Brigades are men and women in their 30's and early 40's whose ties to the organization date back to the student revolution of the late 1960's and early 70's, and who since reached positions of responsibility in government, industry and political parties. Estimates of the Italian revolutionary left's active base in the late 1970's ranged from an illegal left underground of 4,000-8,000 cadre to an active support base of 200,000-300,000. As of the early 1992 BR's active strength was probably fewer than 50, plus an unknown number of supporters.

Rigid clandestinity accompanied by selective and systematic actions characterized the history of the Red Brigades (Brigate Rosse, BR), the only terrorist organization of the left in continuous existence since 1970, and, to a lesser degree, the practices of the Armed Proletarian Nuclei (Nuclei Armati Proletari, NAP), a considerably smaller group active between 1974 and 1977, but subsequelllly absorbed by the BR.

As an organized structure, the BR came into existence in 1970 as an offshoot of the Political Metropolitan Collective (Collettivo Politico Metropolitano-CPM) of Milan. The historic nucleus or first generation of the BR was made up of former Catholic students from the Sociology Department of the University of Trent (e.g., Renato Curcio, Margherita Cagol, and Giorgio Semeria), former activists of the PCI and its youth organization (FGCI) principally from the heavily Communist Emilia-Romagna region (e.g., Alberto Franceschini, Prospero Gallinari, Tonino Loris Paroli. and Lauro Azzolini), and former militants of extraparliamentary aggregallons of the left (e.g., Mario Moretti, Pietro Bertolazzi and Corrado Alunni), most of whom were employed in Milan by major industries such as Pirelli and SitĚSiemens before assuming a clandestine role. The second generation emerged in the mid-1970's, when BR actions became more violent.

In keeping with the rigidly clandestine organizational concepts used by organizations of the left, the BR adoped a "pyramidal structure with closed compartments, each headed by a person who acted as a filter and assured access to a higher compartment. By 1983, a year of setbacks of unprecedented magniture, the organizational structure of the BR was believed not to be intact. In any case, whatever was left of that terrorist formation, whose history was one of resiliency in the face of periodice setbacks, was likely to be influenced by its time-tested model.

Internal debate or dissent within an organization or between different organizations did not address the type of target to be destroyed or otherwise singled out but concentrated on political strategies. For example, the feud between militarists and movementists inside the BR did not involve targeting. The militarists favored BR hegemony over the entire combatant Communist party, as well as concentration of effort in the industrial sector of Italian society. The lattcr aspect led some observers to refer to them as the Northerners. The Movmentists, on the other hand, preferred a closer collahoration scheme with sister terrorist bands of the left and concentration of effort in the prisons and among nonskilled workers. For this reason, they hade also been termed southerners. It might be said that the less rigid approach of the latter was somewhat closer to that of PL and of the Autonomy.

At the top of the pyramidal structun was the strategic directorate, presumably but not provenly, the highest authority within the BR hierarchy. The strategic directorate, which can be regarded as a revolutionary council, decided upon objectives and campaigns. Its functions were therefore politico-military in nature. Since it did not meet in permanent session, but convened from time to time, the execution of its resolutions was delegated to an executive committee.

The numerical composition and the identity of all members of these two organs, one or both of which may have been out of commission by 1983, a time of presumable reorganizational efforts by the surviving elements of the BR, required further investigation. According to repentant red brigadist Patrizio Peci, who was captured in February 1980, the strategic directorate consisted until 1979 of 10 members. With respect to the executive committee, Peci indicated that its composition varied from four to five members, but this rule was not rigid. The partial list of strategic directorate and executive committee members provided to date by Peci and other repentant terrorists was that of BR militants allegedly known to them directly or from other sources. Consequently, from their confessions no behind-tbe-scenes principals or figures had emerged.

The immediate lower layer of the BR structure consited of several columns whose responsibilities mostly entailed operations and intelligence collection. Under optimal conditions, individual columns were assigned municipal or regional spheres of action. The BR referred to a city as a pole. Through the years, induntifited columns included those of Milan, Turin, Genoa, the Veneto region, Rome, Naples, and, at least at the incipient level, the Sardinian regioll. In the regios of Tuscany and Marche, BR committees were known to have operated as appendages of columns, but with functions analogous to those performed by the columns. The unclassified semiannual intelligence report presented by the Primp Minister to the Parliament on November 27, 1982, indicated that the Rome, Milan, Turin, and Naples columns were still potentially dangerous.

At the lowest pyramidal level operated brigades having, in some case, subordinate cells. The brigades were directed, managed and supervised by the headquarters of the column to which they belong. Each column was composed of two or more brigades. In addition to this operations-oriented structure, the BR clandestine organization possessed a number of fronts whose mission was somewhat less dynamic, as their activities entailed research, certain types of intelligence collection, propaganda, and logistics. A substantial part of their input originated from the columns and the brigades. The fronts included the mass front, the logistical front, and the triple front. The last of these was specifically concerned with intelligence collection/processing regarding the judiciary, the police, and the labor unions.

The actual militants of the BR can be classified as either regulars or irregulars. Both were part of the clandestine structure, but whereas the former led a totally clandestine life, the latter were only part-timers in the organization and consequently maintained a close to normal life style. According to Antonio Savasta, another repentant red brigadist captured in January of 1982, irregulars were to be found in the strategic directorat.e as well.

A more direct perception of the BR structure can be acquired by focusing on the Rome column, one of the most important BR units and one that was considered operational in the early 1980s despite the setbacks suffered by the BR since the beginning of 1982. The Rome column consisted of five brigades designated as Rome North Side, Rome South Side, Ostia, Hospitaliers, and University. The names given to these brigades were indicative of operational spheres of action assigned in relation to territory or to specific institutions.

Individual brigade strength ranged from a minimum of two or three members to a maximum of five or six. Besides these organic fullfledged operational units, the Rome column maintained points of contact consisting of at least one irregular in each of a number of other institutions including the local railroad, telephone, labor placement, and school administrations, and Alitalia (Italian Air Lines). The point of contact can expand into a brigade, if the situation was favorable or was a remnant of an inactivated brigade.

Structural clandestinity was inevitably accompanied by a body of security norms that address liaison between members of the organization in special detail. Within the BR, the unflexible application of these norms would require that brigade members be familiar only with members of their own brigade; brigade leaders be familiar only with their column leader; and column leaders be familiar only with one or more representatives of the strategic directorate or of the executive committee. However, since the more complex operations frequently required the combined assets of two or more brigades, of an entire column or even two or more columns, the rigidity of these norms was modified from time to time. This security mitigation was also necessary to allow the fronts to operate efficiently, since their membership was drawn from column headquarters so that they can assess the situation as well as requirements throughout the national territory.

To ensure an acceptable degree of security in all of these cases, the BR meticulously regulated behavior pertaining to movement and rendezvous. In metropolitan areas, the regular BR militant was cautioned to avoid the historical center, especially during periods of intense police surveillance, and to move on foot or by public conveyance.

Meetings with other militants were to take place in areas of noticable pedestrian and vehicular traffic, preferably in the less central sections of the city. Bus stops are considered desirable specific meeting points within the above-described environment. Meetings between militants, regardless of their purpose, entailed two procedures known as ordinary and strategic. Ordinary procedure meetings were scheduled in relation to operational/logistical requirements but must avoid set patterns as to the day of the week or month, time, and place. If one of the two militants fails to appear, the appointment was automatically postponed to 1 hour later. If the rendezvous failed a second time, the meeting was once again automatically set for the following day at the same time and place. In the event of a repeated failure, no further attempt was made under the ordinary procedure.

At this point, the strategic procedure went into effect. The strategic meeting was set from the very beginning of the relationship between the two militants. The day of the week or month, time, and place of the appointment subject to strategic procedure was not open to change and is purely eventual, i.e., it takes place only in case the ordinary procedure cannot be followed. To avoid organizational loss of contact, an encoded record of all strategic-procedure appointments was kept at both column headquarters and at higher levels.

Security norms also governed operational and logistical bases, the number of which varies from column to column. The more important bases must be guarded by two regulars. Bases were either purchased or rented by an unsuspected militant with a clean poiice record, who theoretically performs no other function within the organization. For further security enhancement, the location of bases was periodically changed. Besides their own base, all regulars knew the address of an additional one that is to serve as a back-up facility in cases of emergency.

The rigidly clandestine structure is accompanied by selective and systematic terrorist actions. Human targets were not picked at random but are selectively chosen because of the institution they represent or because of their own role within the system the BR wish to destroy. Equally representative or symbolic were the material targets of the BR. The fact that responsibility was most often claimed after a terrorist attack does not in any way alter the clandestine nature of the organization, since the BR were clandestine in their structure and not in their aims, which they actively sought to publicize directly through their own proclamations and indirectly through media coverage.

With respect to operational security, the BR were particularly careful in claiming responsibility for their actions, especially the more clamor-inducing ones such as murders. woundings, and abductions. Paternity leaflets were either immediately dropped off by the unit that perpetrated the criminal act or delivered a few days after the event by irregulars un-connected with the operation and unfamiliar with those responsible for it. These procedures were intended to prevent compromising the individual identity of the perpetrators.

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Page last modified: 25-09-2017 18:32:17 ZULU