Rome Journal

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"Rome Journal"

"Agony Lingers 20 Years after the Moro Killing"

Newspaper article

By: Alessandra Stanley

Date: May 9, 1998

Source: "Rome Journal; Agony Lingers, 20 Years After the Moro Killing," as published by the New York Times.

About the Author: Alessandra Stanley is a foreign bureau chief and high-ranking reporter for the New York Times.


The body of former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro was found in Rome on May 9, 1978, fifty-five days after he was kidnapped by the Marxist-Leninist group, the Red Brigade (Brigate Rosse). The Red Brigade was a leftist extremist group that used violence as a means to influence Italian politics.

At the time of his abduction, Moro was the leader of the ruling Christian Democratic Party. He had facilitated a compromise leading to the formation of the first Italian government to be actively supported by the Communist Party. On March 16th, Moro was to institute this new government, to be led by then Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti. That morning, while on his way to Parliament, Moro was seized from his car by gunmen. All five of his police escorts were killed.

A spokesman for the Red Brigade claimed the organization had taken Moro, and demanded the suspension of the trials of other suspected Red Brigade members in exchange for the release of Moro. While being held in a secret location in Rome, Moro sent letters to politicians and his friends and family, urging the Italian government to bargain for his release.

Prime Minister Andreotti refused to negotiate on Moro's behalf, claiming that the Red Brigade was a terrorist organization. The Italian police and secret services carried out hundreds of unsuccessful raids throughout Italy, searching for Moro. His bullet-filled body was eventually found in an automobile, in the center of Rome.

The Red Brigade was formed in 1969 from the student protest movements. The organization was an active political force in the 1970's and 1980's. Most of their attacks targeted people that they regarded as symbols of western capitalist society—unionists, politicians, and businessmen. The aim of the Red Brigade was to separate Italy from its Western allies.

[This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions]


Andreotti's refusal to negotiate with the Red Brigade on behalf of Moro is one of the most scrutinized aspects of the assassination. Andreotti did stand trial for his involvement in arranging the killing of a journalist who was investigating an alleged cover-up of the Moro case. Andreotti was convicted of this crime in a lower court, and sentenced to 24 years in prison. However, in 2003, Italy's highest court, cleared him of the charges.

Twenty-three Red Brigade members were convicted of participating in the killing of Moro and his five bodyguards. All twenty-three completed their sentences, or were given home-arrest or work-release punishments. One of the founders of the Red Brigade, Alberto Franceschini, who was in prison at the time of the Moro murder, said in 1998 that members of the Red Brigade did kill Moro, but that they were likely influenced by greater powers.

The kidnappings and killings carried out by the Red Brigade, particularly that of Moro, created fear in the 1970's and 1980's. This led to the enacting of laws to combat terrorism and social unrest in Italy, enhancing the powers of security forces, and encouraging defection from the Red Brigade. Beginning in the 1980's, the Red Brigade began to fall apart due to internal schisms, operational failures, and the arrests of many of its members. Eventually, in 1984, imprisoned leaders of the Red Brigade publicly described their armed struggle to break down Italy's links to capitalism as futile.


Web sites

30 Giorni (30 Days). "Remembering Moro." <> (accessed June 26, 2005).

Web sites

BBC News. On This Day 16 March: "1978: Aldo Moro snatched at gunpoint." <> (accessed June 26, 2005).

BBC News. "Italy's Andreotti cleared of murder." <> (accessed June 26, 2005).

International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism. "Red Brigades." <> (accessed June 23, 2005).