Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pop History Moment: The Taking of Aldo Moro

On this day in 1978, terrorists with Italy's extreme left Red Brigades carried out a daring daylight kidnapping of former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro, killing his retinue of five bodyguards in the process.

PhotobucketThe kidnapping occurred in Rome, in the Via Fani; as Moro was being driven to Parliament his car was overtaken by a white Fiat and a man on a motorcycle. The Fiat then braked hard, causing Moro's driver to crash into it. Before his men could begin firing they were all killed, and Moro was taken hostage. The Red Brigades immediately took responsibility for the crime, stating that their aim was to 'hit at the heart of the state'.

Since all known members of the Red Brigade were then in jail for other crimes, this group was sometimes called the Second Red Brigade; their leader at the time was Mario Moretti.

In the days following Moro's abduction the country descended into a virtual police state, especially in the vicinities of Rome and Naples, where it was thought Moro was being held; at the same time the country erupted in a general strike. In the tense days that followed Pope Paul VI even offered himself as a hostage in exchange for Moro's release.

One concession to compassion offered him by his captors is that Moro was allowed to send letters to his family and colleagues while in captivity; these were not published in their entirety until the 1990s, when it was discovered that more than a few of them were critical of Giulio Andreotti, a Christian Democrat who was then Prime Minister whose alleged ties to the Mafia made him a chief suspect in the Moro Affair.

Moro was seen as one of the country's most patient diplomats, and at the time he was taken he was on his way to vote on what was known as the Compromesso storico (the 'historic compromise') which would have seen the Communists - who had won big in that country's June 1976 general election - sharing power in Italy for the first time; Moro, as the former leader of (and still one of the leading lights in) the Christian Democrats, had brokered this bill. His abduction put an end to it.

For 55 days the country waited on tenterhooks, until May 9th - when the rest of the story will be told...
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