Prima Linea (Italian, English: "Front Line") was an Italian Marxist–Leninist terrorist group of the late 1970s. It was formed in 1976 by members of hard-line factions within the far left, extra-parliamentary organization Lotta Continua, which disbanded that year, together with members of Potere Operaio and of other far left groups. By 1982 it had carried out more than twenty assassinations.
Politics and organization
Prima Linea was the second terrorist organization in Italy, second only to the Red Brigades, in membership and influence. The Italian Service for Democratic Information and Security classified Prima Linea as both an organisation of "Movimentismo" and "Militarismo", activism and militarism. Members and collaborators amounted to some one thousand.
The leaders were Roberto Sandalo, Marco Donat-Cattin, Sergio D'Elia, Michele Viscardi, Enrico Galmozzi, Fabrizio Giai, Sergio Segio, Susanna Ronconi, Diego Forastieri, Roberto Rosso, Maurice Bignami, Bruno La Ronga, Giulia Borelli, and Silviera Russo.
The organization used other names for their operations, including Comitati Comunisti Combattenti, Brigate Comuniste Combattenti, Ronde Proletarie.
923 members of Prima Linea and 149 members of Comitati comunisti per la liberazione proletaria (COLP) were questioned. Some members remained unidentified.
The groups coming from Lotta Continua began to organize as a separate secret structure in 1974-1976. After starting its activity under different definitions, the organization adopted the name "Prima Linea" from 30 November 1976. Prima Linea was active particularly in Lombardy, Tuscany, Campania and, above all in Turin (the birthplace of Donat-Cattin) and Piedmont.
The first assassination officially attributed to Prima Linea was that of Enrico Pedenovi, a member of the post-fascist Italian Social Movement. He was killed on 29 September 1976 in Milan in the occasion of the first anniversary of the death of Sergio Ramelli, who had been in turn murdered by Avanguardia Operaia. On 12 March 1977 Prima Linea assassinated in Turin Giuseppe Ciotta, a policeman. In the following April the Prima Linea members met at San Michele a Torri, near Florence, to define its statute and its internal organization. In July of the same year they damaged a weapon store at Tradate, in the province of Varese, in response the killing of one of its members, Romano Tognini.
In 1978 Prima Linea merged with Formazioni Comuniste Combattenti, after which a National Unified Command was created. In this period PL concentrated against prison structures. In 1978 they killed Fausto Dionisi, a jail agent; the following victim was Alfredo Paolella, a Naples professor of anthropology who was a technical observer in the Pozzuoli prison. His death was followed by large demonstrations of Italian trade unions and left parties against terrorism.
In January 1979 the organization killed Giuseppe Lorusso in Turin and judge Emilio Alessandrini (who was working to a reformation of Italian jails) in Milan. In February, the Italian police killed two Prima Linea members sitting in a bar. As a reply, in March a Prima Linea commando attacked the members of a police car in a bottle shop in the same city. The outcome was the death of a man passing there by chance, Emanuele Iurilli. A few months, later, Donat-Cattin and Maurice Bignami killed the owner of the bar, considered responsible for the identification of the members who had been shot. On 13 July 1979 an unarmed traffic agent was killed during a robbery at Druento, near Turin. The following September the organization met at Bordighera to decide its subsequent line. At the end of the year, they assassinated a Fiat engineer, Carlo Ghiglieno. A little while later, PL's member Roberto Pautasso was killed by the police in Rivoli.
In 1980 the radical faction within PL decided the assassination of magistrate and criminologist Guido Galli at Milan, on 19 March. Paolo Poletti, a director of the ICMESA, the Seveso plant which had caused a toxic pollution in 1976, was killed in his villa. In the same year the organization killed the Carabinieri Antonio Chionna, Ippolito Cortellessa, Pietro Cuzzoli and police agent Filippo Giuseppe. In 1980 several members became pentitoes: in particular, Roberto Sandalo's revelations spurred a long series of arrests of PL's members, including that of Marco Donat-Cattin. One of them, William Waccher, was assassinated after having become a police collaborator.
In 1980, numerous members abandoned Prima Linea to join the Red Brigades. In 1981 a series of internal meetings were held at Barzio, in the province of Como, after which it was decided to disband Prima Linea. Some members who had been not arrested yet formed the Comunisti Organizzati per la Liberazione Proletaria (Organized Communists for the Proletary Liberation), aiming to free imprisoned terrorists or political prisoners.
Prima Linea was officially disbanded only in 1987. Some of its members, including Segio and Roberto Rosso, later entered the Italian Radical Party. Segio wrote in 2005 the essay Miccia corta, dedicated to Prima Linea's history.
More terrorists have had sentences reduced, some starkly reduced, the last terrorist of Prima Linea was freed in 2004.
A film about some terrorists of Prima Linea aroused heavy protest from victims of terrorism.
- "Per le vittime del terrorismo nell’Italia repubblicana"", Presidenza della Repubblica, Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato. Libreria dello Stato - ISBN 978-88-240-2868-4 -Redazione a cura dell’Ufficio per la Stampa e l’Informazione con la collaborazione dell’Ufficio per gli Affari Interni e dell’Ufficio per gli Affari dell’Amministrazione della Giustizia della Presidenza della Repubblica
- Dino Sanlorenzo
- Lotta Continua
- Communist terrorism
- Terrorism in Italy from 1945 till today
- Years of lead (Italy)
- ‘Breve storia di Prima Linea’, tiscali.it/settanta7.
- [dead link]
- ‘Movements and militarism: The armed Front Line of 1968’, Gnosis: Rivista Italiana di intelligence, n. 4/2005 (Servizio per le Informazioni e la Sicurezza Democratica).
- ‘Breve storia di Prima linea’ Archived 2009-12-15 at the Wayback Machine