Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sardinia as a staging ground for Soviet-backed terrorists

In an interesting TED Talk on the economics of terrorism, Italian economist Loretta Napoleoni relates a story told to her by a "part-timer" in the Red Brigades, a leftist Italian terrorist organization active in the '70s:

He was sailing every summer back and forth from Lebanon, where he would pick up Soviet weapons from the PLO and then carry them all the way to Sardina, where other armed organizations in Europe would go and take their share of the arms. For that service, the Red Brigades were actually paid a fee, which went to fund the organization.

She leaves some ambiguities. Were the weapons just manufactured in the USSR, or was the Soviet leadership actually directing the weapons through the PLO? (Others have claimed that the Soviet Union was directly responsible.) And were they being sold in some sort of market to all comers, or were the Red Brigades merely transporting them to groups pre-selected by the PLO (or Czechs/Soviets)? Her wording ("take their share") and the fact that they were paid a fee (as opposed to earning profit from the sales) hints at the latter.

This all happened decades ago, but Italy still hasn't escaped from the influence of Russian spies. As late as 2006, a British MEP gave a "one-minute speech" in the European Parliament where he quoted the late Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko as saying that he was warned:

Don’t go to Italy, there are many KGB agents among the politicians. Romano Prodi is our man there.

Romano Prodi, in fact, has a history of shady ties with the Red Brigades. In 1978, he was somehow privy to the location of a prominent politician kidnapped by the Brigades (and later killed), which he explained as having been revealed to him in a séance.

PS, this is my 500th post. Happy birthday, blog!

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