Red Brigades take a major blow -- but not decisive
In the wake of the spectacular rescue of American Brig. Gen. James Dozier from his Red Brigades kidnappers, two points of view can be heard:Skip to next paragraph
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* ''It was us, it was us, we found him. This is a country that knows how to be serious and it has an adminstration which is far more valid than most would like to think.''
Interior Minister Virginio Rognoni, head of the anti-terrorist squads which conducted the Dozier investigation and the rescue operation, does not hesitate to put a feather in Italy's cap.
* ''The Dozier case does not spell the end of the terrorist organization. The roots of terrorism - 8.8 percent unemployment, 20 percent inflation, and all the social injustices of our society - have not been eliminated. The Red Brigades still pose a serious problem for Italian democracy.''
Terrorist expert Franco Ferrarotti warns against any sudden or unbalanced euphoria.
The two viewpoints are not necessarily in conflict. As the dust settles on a victory for the Italian police that few had dared to hope for, and as news of more Red Brigades arrests keeps coming in, it is clear that the terrorist organization has been dealt a major blow by some well-oiled police work.
But it is also clear that it is not a decisive one. And the Italian police are far from under-estimating the formidable recuperative powers of the organization. Thousands of documents confiscated by the police during their recent raids have revealed that the Red Brigades are still a highly-dangerous and sophisticated group.
Even General Dozier told reporters the day after his release, ''They are bright people who believe in what they're doing.'' Such fervent dedication to their goal to disrupt Italian society is a difficult psychological factor for the anti-terrorist police to beat.
The captured documents, however, have provided police with more of a weapon than they have ever had before in their battle against the terrorist organization.
''We haven't even begun to scratch the surface of all this new evidence and information, but it has already proved invaluable,'' said a top investigator in Verona. It was careful analysis of all the leads - and some advisory help from the Americans - that lead the police to Dozier.
''It was just good solid police work. People talked and they followed up every lead,'' said one admiring United States official.One of the men arrested in the Dozier raid, Antonio Savasta, had been identified by police as a suspect in the case as early as four days after the general was kidnapped.
Indeed, the police are closing in on a number of the members of the most feared terrorist group in Italy. Over 70 alleged terrorists have been rounded up by police in the course of the search for Dozier. Police estimate there are still at least 400 active members in the organization. There are also said to be 1,000 flankers, or above ground runners, and several thousand more sympathizers.
The fact that many of the arrested terrorist suspects rounded up in the last six weeks have spilled the beans under interrogation indicates to many analysts here that there may be more cracks in the once tightly-knit secretive organization than police had previously suspected.
In addition, the handling of the communiques released in the Dozier kidnapping was not as sophisticated as in previous cases. This suggests that the organization is not as efficient as it once was. Some analysts have even detected signs of weakness in the fact that the terrorists did not shoot Dozier when police burst into the hideout in Padua where they were holding him captive.
Now there are fears here that the terrorist group, which has frequently engaged in retaliatory attacks to save face after severe humiliations, may try a fresh attack to demonstrate that it is alive and well. Already a message from an anonymous caller to the local newspaper in Padua has threatened, ''We will replace the comrades arrested in Padua and nothing will remain unpunished.''
The Italian police have warned Americans, in particular, that the Red Brigades might attempt another attack on US interests. Security at NATO bases scattered throughout Italy and at the American Embassy in Rome is tighter than ever before, one source says, in case the terrorists make just such an attempt to avenge their humiliation.
As part of a check for explosives, mirrors are passed beneath all cars entering the NATO bases. Officials go to work in civilian clothes, varying their routes and times of departure. All I.D.s are closely scrutinized. Bodies are frisked.
The Americans have been careful to keep a low profile during and after the Dozier investigation. US officials have acknowledged there were six advisers sent in and some electronic equipment was lent to the Italians. But the Italian police are proud that they have earned full credit for cracking the case.