Last February, in the quiet of a secluded northern Italian country house, three Italian far left militants brainstormed, unaware that counter-terrorism officials were listening to their every word. The men were known members of the so-called "New Red Brigades," discussing new strategies for the group. Alfredo Davanzo, the ideologue of the group who had just returned from France using a forged passport, spoke about the need to overcome the organization's isolation, caused by its secrecy and the waves of arrests it had suffered (ironically, the three would be arrested the following Monday). The group, said the men, should find new venues for their recruitment efforts and pointed to Italian mosques, described as "propellers of protests and struggles," as one of the most obvious choices (Corriere della Sera, July 30). The conversation is just another indication of what Italian intelligence officials have warned about for the last few years: some of the most militant segments of the Italian extreme left have displayed an increasing interest in and admiration for radical Islam. What has been only purely moral support up to now could possibly develop into a dangerous cooperation.
After Lioce's arrest, investigators uncovered the network of the NCC/New Red Brigades between Rome and Tuscany and most of the militants have received lengthy prison terms for the assassinations of D'Antona and Biagi. Waves of arrests have also dismantled Davanzo's group and netted some of the militants behind La Voce. The violent extreme left in Italy nowadays can count just a handful of full-fledged militants and a few hundred sympathizers, nothing compared to its heydays of the 1970s. Nevertheless, this weak condition is not viewed by Italian intelligence agents with much relief. The fear, confirmed by Davanzo's wiretapped conversation, is that left wing militants, feeling isolated, will reach out to any radical movement they might perceive as receptive, and all indications point to radical Islamist groups as their first choice. Officials have already monitored limited contacts between left wing militants and Islamists, occurring mostly at the margins of anti-war or anti-Israel initiatives. Particularly interesting are the ties being forged between militants of the two movements in Italian prisons, where there has been increasing cooperation in spreading anti-Western propaganda and protesting anti-terrorism laws. It is not a coincidence that the banner protesting anti-terrorism legislation behind which a hundred of self-proclaimed Red Brigades sympathizers marched last June in Padua was written in Italian and Arabic.
It is extremely difficult to predict how different segments of the Islamist movement will react to this overture and if a "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" attitude will overshadow the immense ideological differences between the two movements. Italian authorities, however, are severely worried by the possibility that the links between the two movements—both of which have the motivation and the capability to use violence—could extend beyond statements to more formal cooperation.
Llegiu també: L'Islam, el marxisme del nostre temps (anglès)