For 15 years, from 1969 to 1984, bombs exploded all over Italy - on trains, a bank, a station and a square during a demonstration. They are assumed to have been a campaign of terror by elements in the secret services possibly manipulated by politicians, to prevent Italy becoming too left-wing. Then in the past year, Mafia assassinations including the horrific bomb attacks on the anti-Mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino with their escorts.
Now a somewhat different kind of attack: the first, in Rome two weeks ago, narrowly missed Maurizio Costanzo, a popular television personality who has attacked the Mafia, then the Florence car bomb killed five and damaged the Uffizi gallery. Is it the Mafia, or is it other sinister forces still at work, despite the clean-up going on in public life?
The main proponent of the Mafia theory is the Interior Minister, Nicola Mancino. In parliament yesterday he recalled the remarkable successes notched up against the Mafia in recent months and asked in Latin 'cui prodest?' - who could the bombs benefit?. 'The reply is obvious,' he went on. 'The Mafia, which has recently suffered severe defeats and needs to get the pressure relaxed and distract the forces of the law . . .'
Others are not convinced. Magistrates have pointed out that the Mafia does not commit serious crimes (apart from its normal business) outside Sicily where it can command silence and complicity.
'The doubts we had about the Rome attack . . . have strengthened,' writes the commentator Giorgio Bocca in La Repubblica. 'Why should the Mafia, which has always made precisely targeted attacks with an extremely clear meaning, commit men and logistics to the kind of terrorism conducted by anonymous and absurd guerrillas?' Francesco Saverio Borrelli, the chief prosecutor investigating political corruption, said that such episodes hold up change. He suggested 'the Mafia with certain contacts in the degenerate part of the political class'.
Leoluca Orlando, the leader of the anti-Mafia grouping, La Rete, blamed 'the Mafia, 'deviant' elements in the state and those who at this moment are sitting in public offices and in places of public responsibility who are trembling at the idea that the investigations should continue. There are, and even small children know it, elements in the state and politics that want to avoid being tried at all costs. We know they are desperate and in their desperation can . . . even order massacres.'
Is it the secret services plus politicians? Judge Felice Casson, who has investigated previous attacks, said: 'Those who put certain officials at the head of the secret services have always been politicians who have always used power in a certain way.'
Is it all the above plus the P2 masonic conspiracy? Achille Occhetto, the leader of the former Communists, said investigation into previous bombs 'have been derailed by masons, Mafia, Camorra and deviant secret services . . . I am convinced that (the bomb) was laid by those who suffocated the investigations into the massacres which bloodied 30 years of our history.'
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