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This Day in History

World History

Thursday, March 16, 1978. :   Former Italian Prime Minister, Aldo Moro, is kidnapped at gunpoint.

     Aldo Moro, born 23 September 1916, was one of Italy's longest-serving post-war Prime Ministers. He served as Prime Minister from 1963 to 1968, and again from 1974 to 1976. One of the most important leaders of Democrazia Cristiana, or DC (in English the Christian Democrats), Moro was considered an intellectual and an exceptional mediator, especially in the internal life of his party.

On 16 March 1978, Moro was kidnapped by militant members of the Red Brigades, a left-wing terrorist group formed in 1970 with the sole aim of overthrowing capitalist Italy by violent means. Moro's five police bodyguards were killed when he was kidnapped at gunpoint from a car near a cafe in full view of rush-hour witnesses, whilst being driven to a session of the house of representatives. The Red Brigades proposed to exchange Moro's life for the freedom of 13 Red imprisoned Red Brigades terrorists. However, the government immediately took a hardline position on terrorist requests, that the "State must not bend". Moro was held at a secret location in Rome and permitted to send letters to his family and fellow politicians, begging the government to negotiate with his captors. There has been some conjecture since then that the letters contained cryptic messages for his family and colleagues.

Moro was executed at gunpoint around 9 May 1978, and his body found in the boot of a car in Via Caetani in central Rome. Most of their leading members of the Red Brigades were captured and imprisoned by the mid-1980s.

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