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European Para-Military Groups

In the murky realm of international connections, a fundamental distinction must be made between ideological, logistical, and, less frequently, operational links existing between Italian organizations of the Communist component and kindred terrorist organizations or groupings of other nationalities, on one hand, and what has come to be called patron-state support on the other.

The existence of connections between the Italian terrorist organizations of the left and foreign groups of like persuasion is not questioned today by any observer. In fact, a number of concrete examples can be readily cited to illustrate the various levels of international terrorist cooperation.

Since the early 1970's, the BR had been in contact with the German Red Army Faction (RAF) in order to exchange mutual assistance in the areas of safehaven, logistics, and operational experience. In several ways the BR have imitated and even surpassed t.heir Gelman count.erparts. For instance, the Hans Schleyer kidnapping served as a blueprint for the Aldo Moro abduction. The Dozier affair surpassed in every respect the RAF's actions against U.s. military installations and personnel in Germany.

In March of 1980, three red brigadists were arrested in Toulon, France, along with a number of local counterparts belonging to Direct Action (Action Directe-ADl while conducting joint proletarian expropriations on the Cote d' Azur. The BR were also training AD militants. In October of 1981, five local nationals were convicted in Lacarno, Switzerland, for a number of crimes, including supplying the BR and other Italian terrorist organizations of the left with weapons and explosives.

In January 1982, Italian judicial proceedings determined that, after the summer of 1978, 10 members of PL and of the Communist Combat Formations (FCC) had trained in the use of crew-served weapons and explosives with members of the Basque ETA in an area near the Spanish-French border. Approximately 200 Italian extremists associated with the BR, PL, AUTOP, and other groups were estimated as of 1982 to be enjoying safehaven in France, particularly in Paris.

Much more difficult to assess is patron-state support, since available knowledge is based on circumstantial evidence and testimony, as well as logical induction and deduction. Cuba, Libya, and the East-European Communist bloc countries have been repeatedly indicated in the press and on the floor of the Italian Parliament as supportive of leftist terrorism in Italy.

Circumstantial evidence accounted for the pointing of an accusing finger at Cuba. Giangiacomo Feltrinelli spent time there in the mid and late 1960's as Fidel Castro's personal guest. He was also the Italian editor of Cuba's revolutionary publication Tricontinental. In 1967, he attended the trial of Regis Debray, the Frenchman who had followed Che Guevara on his last guerrilla campaign. Not long thereafter, Bolivian Consul Roberto Quintanilla, hated by the revolutionary left because of his role in relation to the capture and death of Guevara, was murdered in the Federal Republic of Germany with a pistol owned by Feltrinelli.

Moreover, as narrated in a book put out by Feltrinelli's publishing company, Renato Curcio and his wife Margherita Cagol (Mara), both of the historic nucleus of the BR, visited Cuba at the incipient stage of leftist terrorist activities in Italy. The Cuban link also surfaced in connection with the anarchist organizations.

A more incisive role in the destabilization of Italian institutions and society was attributed to Libya's Muamar Qaddafi. His endeavors reportedly include support for the terrorist left as well as extremist organizations of other persuasions. A number of captured terrorists of the Left, including former militants of the Red Brigades (BR), Front Line (PL). and Revolutionary Action (AR), revealed to the investigating magistrates that at least since 1978 Libya had been an intermediary in the purchase of weapons from the Middle East and primarily from the PopUlar Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

But the most grievous accusations were levelled against the East-European Communist bloc countries, which in fact had a long history of clandestine operations in Italy in the interrelated fields of espionage, recruitment, infiltration, disinformation, and subversion.

A review of data, circumstantial evidence, and statements available in open sources, both governmental and private, presents a disquieting picture of the varying degrees of linkage in existence through the years between the USSR, Yugoslavia (before its break with the Soviet bloc in 1948), Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria, on one hand, and Italian subversive elements and groupings of the left, on the other hand.

By 1985 Belgium had become the focal point for political action campaigns designed to sabotage further "Euromissile" deployment. Belgium's young Prime Minister, Wilfried Martens, had emerged as one of the most vigorous and determined Western European leaders in his commitment to withstand Soviet blackmail; but strains within his coalition government forced him to temporize on the planned deployment of 48 land-based cruise missiles in his country.

Meanwhile, Soviet "active measures" programs aimed at dividing the Alliance and exploiting European fears were being stepped up in parallel with Soviet-U.S. arms talks. Security experts believed that the KGB was involved in a new wave of anti-NATO bombings, sabotage and assassination that wracked West Germany, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands and France, as well as Belgium.

Five-page letters arrived at the Paris offices of several news media on 15 January 1985 which claimed that two of Europe's principal terrorist organizations, the Rote Armee Fraktion (RAF) of West Germany and the French Action Directe had united to form a joint "political-military front in Western Europe" for the purpose of attacking NATO.

Before the month had ended, General Rene Audran, a senior official in charge of arms exports at the Defense Ministry, had been shot and killed. Action Directe claimed responsibility for the suburban Paris assassination. The "Combatant Communist Cells" (CCC), which bombed a U.S. Army facility in a Brussels suburb that day, may be part of the same terrorist coalition. The 55 pounds of plastic explosives used in an 18 December 1984 attempted RAF bombing of a NATO facility in Oberammergau were traced to a stock of explosives stolen in Belgium and used in a Paris bombing in August 1984 of the West European Union building byAction Directe.

The CCC had been involved in attacks on U. S. corporate offices, defense contractors and the political parties that support the coalition government in Brussels. The attacks spread to the Netherlands on 22 January 1985, when the previously unknown Nordic Terror Front attempted to firebomb the Groningen police headquarters and announced it would attack NATO "and its accomplices." The Dutch police were singled out as "the slaves of imperialism."

The new campaign of sabotage against U.S. military and NATO targets actually commenced in Portugal; spearheaded by a terrorist group closely related to the slavishly pro-Soviet Portuguese Communist Party. The sabotage spread to Spain and Belgium where the "Combatant Communist Cells" claimed responsibility. The RAF hunger strike was a ruse intended to mobilize support for violence against NATO targets by the militant left, and to distract public attention from the fact that there are groups in at least five West European countries practicing sabotage against NATO.

It was no coincidence that these attacks coincided with the revival of U.S.-Soviet arms control negotiations. The Soviets might hope for the double satisfaction of stepping up anti-NATO pressure through terrorist surrogates at a time when Western governments - hoping for a revival of detente - had even less appetite than usual for exposing Moscow's terrorist connections.

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Page last modified: 25-09-2017 18:32:19 ZULU