Secret '70s Cables Disclose Details on Pact Between Italy, Palestinian Terror Groups

Italian politicians who viewed sealed diplomatic cables say they could shed light on 1980 train-station bombing and plane explosion.

The bullet-riddled body of Italian Premier Aldo Moro is found in the back of a vehicle near his Christian Democrat Party headquarters in Rome, May 9, 1978.
Gianni Giansanti, AP

Members of an Italian parliamentary committee that is reexamining the abduction and murder in the spring of 1978 of former Prime Minister Aldo Moro by the Marxist Red Brigades terror organization also unearthed documents that shed new light on two additional mysteries from that era. On June 27, 1980, all 77 passengers and four crew members were killed when their plane exploded over the Italian island of Ustica and plunged into the Tyrrhenian Sea. A little over a month later, on August 2, 85 people died and 200 were injured when a bomb left in an unattended suitcase in the Bologna central train station exploded. The documents and their contents are still sealed records.

Italy’s La Stampa newspaper recently reported that a few weeks ago, committee members were allowed into the Rome archives of an Italian intelligence agency in order to view top-secret documents. They were permitted to bring in pencils and paper only; cameras and cellphones were left outside.

While poring through the thousands of documents related to the Moro murder, the legislators came across top-secret cables about the 1973 deal, named for Moro, between Rome and Palestinian terror organizations. Under the unwritten agreement, Italy allegedly pledged its political support for the Palestinians; in return, Fatah and George Habash’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine promised not to conduct terror attacks on Italian soil.

In one cable, a photograph of which somehow reached La Stampa, the writer warns the intelligence services that the PFLP may be planning a “wide-scale terror operation” in Italy.

MPs Gaetano Quagliariello and Carlo Giovanardi, who serve on the committee, say unsealing and publishing the documents could help uncover the truth about the Ustica and Bologna disasters.

“It’s inconceivable and scandalous that despite the ongoing arguments and the heavy suspicions of possible French and American involvement in the downing of the plane over Ustica, the public isn’t being given the information that is clearly indicated in the secret documents,” the committee members said in a written statement, “both in connection with this tragedy and in connection with the other massacres that drenched Italy in blood in 1980, chiefly the massacre at the Bologna train station on August 2, 1980.”

The five committee members, calling upon the government to allow the documents to be made public, added: “The members of the investigative committee examining the murder of Aldo Moro were able to review correspondence from this period between our embassy in Beirut and the secret services in Roma, material that is no longer considered a state secret but is still classified as top-secret and therefore cannot be made public.”

They went so far as to write that “[t]he dramatic and terrible conflict between Italy and several Palestinian organizations controlled by the Libyans reaches a peak on the morning of June 27, 1980.” Theories have previously been floated in the Italian media saying that the Bologna terror attack, which was hitherto attributed to an Italian neofascist terror organization, was in fact a Palestinian reprisal attack for Italy’s alleged violation of the Moro agreement when Abu Saleh Anzeh, the head of the PFLP in Italy, was arrested on terrorism charges in January 1980.