An unidentified ''group of friends'' is offering a $1.7 million reward for information leading to the release of kidnapped US Brig. Gen. James Dozier. NATO officials say they don't know exactly who is putting up the money, but stress that NATO itself is not behind the offer. Sources here say the money comes from Italian authorities in a move without precedent in the history of guerrilla operations in Italy.
Col. Luciano Dalceggio of General Dozier's NATO command said the money being offered is a reward for information received, not a ransom offer. Sources say Italian officials hope to exploit ideological splits in the Red Brigades guerrilla organization, the group that dragged General Dozier from his Verona apartment last month. The hefty reward indicates police hope to attract information from Brigade ''doves'' who disagree with the hard-liners' strategy of murdering their victims.
Meanwhile, in Rovigo, Italy, four convicted woman members of the Red Brigades escaped Sunday when a bomb blew a hole in the wall surrounding a high-security prison 234 miles north of Rome. At least one passerby was killed and six wounded , officials said.