The article "Italy's Left-Wing Terrorists Flirt with Radical Islamists," which I published with Andrea Morigi in last September's issue of the Jamestown Foundation Terrorism Monitor, has generated abundant feedback. While most of it is positive, I came to know of a negative review by an authoritative source. Judge Armando Spataro, the Italian magistrate in charge of the investigation on the so-called New Red Brigades (NRB), has, in fact, expressed his disagreement on the article's take. In an email sent to Ely Karmon, Senior Research Scholar at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, and circulated by Dr. Karmon through his list serve, Judge Spataro noted that "we didn't find any evidence on the possible link or program of the Left-Wing Terrorists pointed to Italian mosques as Lorenzo Vidino and Andrea Morigi wrote." Since Dr. Karmon has refused to disseminate my response, I find myself obligated to respond here. This post serves not only as a personal response, but also introduces primary sources as hard evidence of the alleged links, something that could be useful to all those who have studied the links between Extreme Left and radical Islam. Here is what I had asked Dr. Karmon to send to his list serve:
While not disputing Mr. Spataro's unquestionably superior knowledge on the NRB, I have to take issue with his comments on my article. Nowhere in my piece do I mention concrete material links between the NRB and Islamists (hence the "flirt" in the title "Italy's Left-Wing Terrorists flirt with Radical Islamists," if there was more I would have said "link up" or "work with," the "flirting" implies that no concrete action has been consummated but there are public expressions of strong sympathy). What I attempted to describe, and what I think it is undeniable, is the fact that Italian left-wing militants, including (but not only) the NRB, have repeatedly expressed strong sympathies for radical Islam. This is the main point of the article and I think that is corroborated by ample evidence.
Just to enter into the specifics: Mr. Spataro claims that "we didn't find any evidence on the possible link or program of the Left-Wing Terrorists pointed to Italian mosques." This seems to contradict the wiretaps that DIGOS did in Davanzo's hideout last February and that were then published on the front page of all Italian newspapers. This is the story, as it was published by Il Giorno (but I could attach links to Corriere della Sera, la Repubblica or any other major newspaper): Reclutamento in stadi e moschee. Svelati i piani delle Brigate rosse. It translates: Recruitment in stadiums and mosques, revealed the plans of the Red Brigades. A pretty straightforward conclusion reached by all Italian papers based on the evidence provided by DIGOS. The article goes on by describing the conversation, as taped by DIGOS, that I detailed in my article for Jamestown. In the conversation the men argue that they 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. Mr. Spataro and I can disagree on the assessment of the conversation, but it is undeniable that Davanzo and his partners talked about it. One can say they were just fantasizing (and I would probably agree with that view), but the fact that they talked recruiting in mosques is undeniable.
To reiterate my point, nobody alleged that there is any operational link between the NBR and Islamists, but the evidence that the NBR and other hard-core left wing militants sympathize with radical Islam is overwhelming. To prove that, I have attached (among the many possible proofs):
1. The link to the hundreds of pages of writings from La Voce, a magazine published by individuals close to the New Red Brigades, most of which deal with political Islam and praise Hamas, Hezbollah and the Afghan and Iraqi "resistance."
2. a picture of the Arabic banner unfolded by sympathizers of the Red Brigades at the Padua protest that I mentioned in my article (the picture was taken by Andrea Morigi, who, like myself, has covered several conferences and protests organized by groups of the Italian Extreme Left)
3. The full statement given by Nadia Lioce, leader of the NRB after her arrest. "September 11, 2001," said the 44-year-old militant, "must open the field to the revolutionary vanguards and not only in Italy. The upcoming war against Iraq constitutes an attempt to remove the main obstacle to the hegemony of the Zionist entity, the stronghold of imperialism in the region, disarming and annihilating the Palestinian resistance, which is the reference of all Arab and Islamic masses who have been expropriated and humiliated by imperialism and who constitute the natural ally of the urban proletarian class in European countries"
4. Official request of information filed by an MP to the Ministry of Interiors re: links between Islamists and left wing militants in May 2007
5. Finally, probably the item that Mr. Spataro will find most interesting: a letter sent by a group of self-described "Sardinian comrades" in support of Adel Ben Soltane, a Tunisian jihadist that was convicted of various terrorism charges by Mr. Spataro's very own Milan's tribunal and designated by the U.S. Treasury Department as a terrorist for his links to the GSPC.
To conclude, I agree with Mr. Spataro on the lack of material links (something I have never alleged), but I respectfully disagree on the rest of his analysis of my article.