Italians blame shadowy powers for bringing terror to Florence: Politicians, Mafia, Masons, secret services? Patricia Clough in Rome on who benefits from the bombing

AS detectives work feverishly to trace the authors of the Florence bomb outrage, Italians are certain of one thing: someone wants to stop their political and moral revolution. But who and why?

The three young men seen by witnesses near the spot before and immediately after the blast, and whose identikits have been circulated, may well have placed the bomb. But no one imagines they are the brains who coldly aimed to destroy one of the world's greatest art centres, the Uffizi gallery, with its irreplaceable masterpieces; who were prepared to massacre any number of people for their own ends; and who early on Thursday, succeeded in killing Angela and Fabrizio Nencioni, their eight-year old daughter Nadia and their nine-month old baby Caterina, as well as a neighbour of the family.

Explosives experts have identified traces of substances known as pentrite and t4, which they say are components of Semtex, the concentrated Czechoslovak-made explosive preferred by terrorists. The same mixture, they say, was used in other Italian massacres, including the assassination of the anti-Mafia magistrate, Giovanni Falcone, his wife and bodyguards, and in the bomb on the Naples- Milan express in December 1984 that killed 15 people and injured more than 200. These attacks are believed to have been the work of the Mafia, aided, if not manipulated, by sinister, hidden forces in what Italians call 'the State'.

But even without this clue, Italians would still be coming to the same conclusions. For decades, shadowy powers have massacred ordinary people up and down the country. The culprits have never been brought to justice. Investigations have been foiled, derailed and insabbiato - quietly buried - by other shadowy powers determined to prevent the truth being known.

So they are left with only one possible trail: their Latin saying, cui prodest? (whose interests are served?). And the conclusions are: old-guard politicians, the Mafia, Masonic conspirators and the secret services; although different people suspect some of these more strongly than others. Most believe that a combination of all four is behind the terror, for these are the people who have most to lose from the astonishing changes that are sweeping Italy.

The corrupt political class, which had been propped up by the Cold War, has virtually collapsed, and magistrates and police are now free to investigate the terrible deeds that went unpunished under its rule. There are politicians, the thinking goes, who are terrified of trial and punishment, not just for corruption but in some cases for possible involvement in murders, bomb massacres and complicity with the Mafia. Cosa Nostra is deeply alarmed at its bosses and their henchmen being arrested, its supergrasses protected by the government while they 'sing' dangerously, and its worldwide, multi-billion pound drug and arms-running empire threatened as never before.

Then there are crooked Masons, members of illicit lodges believed to have brought together Mafiosi, politicians, businessmen and key members of the police and secret services. Attempts by magistrates to investigate these cases are still being obstructed by the authorities. The notorious P2 lodge, headed by its sinister grandmaster, Licio Gelli, but suspected also of being manipulated by politicians, comprised a network of key people in public life, including the press, which aimed eventually to take power. It has supposedly been smashed, but may be living on in some form.

The secret services have long been suspected of being involved in terrorist-style attacks, and were disgraced some years ago when a former chief was alleged to have plotted a coup. Claims that they have been cleaned up are weakened by the fact that a leading official in the SISME, the civilian security service, is in jail accused of protecting and collaborating with Salvatore Riina, allegedly the Mafia's boss of bosses, and other Mafia figures. The Venetian magistrate Felice Casson, who has investigated some of these crimes, says the secret services are not in themselves corrupt. They just carry out orders. But a police union, which also might be expected to know a thing or two, has demanded that the secret services be dissolved.

These suspicions are far from new. Since the late 1960s, bombs in public places massacred scores of people and injured hundreds. Until the fall of communism, a single strategy could be discerned: to spread terror and a sense of insecurity, thus strengthening the conservative 'law and order' mood in the country. Behind this, it is assumed, were elements of 'the State': politicians, perhaps, and members of the secret services, possibly helped by right-wing extremists.

Then came the Red Brigade: terrorists motivated by a genuine, if twisted and fanatical, left-wing ideology. But disturbing indications have emerged recently that they may, wittingly or unwittingly, have been manipulated by 'the State', especially in the kidnapping and murder of the former prime minister, Aldo Moro. One of the cleverest and most powerful Christian Democrat leaders, he had been working to bring the Communists, suitably domesticated, into the democratic fold and ultimately into government.

Finally communism fell and the East-West stand-off ended, but still there was no peace. A year ago bombs killed Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, the two magistrates who knew most about the Mafia and posed the single greatest threat to it. But soon investigating magistrates began to suspect that it had been aided by people in 'the State', who alone would have known about their movements. Someone, the reasoning goes, could have been afraid that they would also find out who gave the Mafia its political protection.

Two weeks ago, there was a somewhat different bomb. The television personality Maurizio Costanzo, who has broadcast powerful anti-Mafia programmes, narrowly escaped a car-bomb attack in Rome. It looked - or perhaps was intended to look - as if the Mafia was out to get an enemy. Now the Uffizi bomb is clearly designed to generate maximum shock, abroad as well as at home.

It comes at a sensitive time. The old system is ending, though some politicians may still control their power networks. The new has not yet emerged. The transitional government, committed to reforms, is composed mainly of technicians and depends largely on opposition abstentions.

But if the brains behind the Uffizi bomb intended to terrify the country into stopping the changes, they have failed. The reaction, in vast demonstrations, in the press and in public life is clear: the bomb is one more reason why the old system must go.

'People aren't scared,' said the proprietor of a restaurant just across the river Arno from the scene of the bomb. 'We Italians are a pretty stable lot really. It is 'they' who are frightened because they are finished. These bombs are just the colpo di coda.' That means something like the thrashing of a dying monster.

(Photograph omitted)

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
Ricky Gervais performs stand-up
people
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SharePoint Engineer - Bishop's Stortford

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organ...

Planning Manager (Training, Learning and Development) - London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glob...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a Teaching Assistant...

Year 5 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd are seeking KS...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering