"The next weeks are likely to be hell," said a grocer as the news of new terrorist shootings today and of three late-night bombings in Rome and Milan came over the radio. The merchant, a grey-haired man in his 60s, compared the current climate to World War II.
The Red Brigades shot in the legs a Turin journalist for Italy's pro-Christian Democrat Channel One television, Franco Piccinelli, 44. A Christian Democratic politician in Genoa, Giancarlo Dagnino, was wounded in the same way.
They were the most recent in a series of terrorist shootings and bombings that seems tied to the approach of general election June 3.
"At this rate we are never going to get to elections," said a woman who runs a used-clothing boutique. Like many other Romans she was shocked by Friday's bombing of the facade of the ancient senatorial palace on Capitoline Hill.
That bombing followed the fatal knifing of a Communist youth in Rome by a neofascist, the murderer of a Milan policemen by left-wing terrorists, and the bombing of the Lancia automombile factory in Turin that reportedly caused a $3 million in damage.
Such events, combined with last night's bombings of two neofascist party offices here and of a police station in Milan, appear to confirm warnings by some politicans that elections would foster renewed violence. However, intensification of the violence also coincides with developments in investigations by magistrates who reportedly believe they have found the key to the Red Brigades' strategy and to the kidnap-murder of former premier Aldo Moro last year.
The major suspect, ultraleftist professor Antono Negri, 46, who teaches political theory in both Padua and Paris, was interrogated today for the third time by Rome prosecutors.
Judicial sources say the evidence against Negri, for over a decade an outspoken leader of an "autonomous" group that preaches mass violence against the current political system, is based on papers found in his possession and on undisclosed police reports.
The authoritative Milan daily Corrieredella Sera, citing Italian secret service sources, said today that French secret police have collected evidence that while Moro was held, the headquarters of the Red Brigades shifted to Paris.
Negri has said he was in Paris the day that Moro was kidnaped in Rome.
Padua magistrate Pietro Calogero issued warrants two weeks ago that led to 15 arrests, on charges of subversion and armed insurrection. Calogero is said to believe Negri's "autonomist" group and the underground Red Brigades are one and the same.