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Mr Moro's escort of five police bodyguards were killed when he was snatched at gunpoint from a car near a cafe in the morning rush-hour.
Chief police investigator Signor Moro said 12 gunmen took part in the attack on the former prime minister as he was being driven to parliament.
Police have set up dozens of roadblocks and all exits from the city are being watched. Helicopters are hovering overhead and anti-terrorist officers have been sent to the airport.
The extreme left-wing Red Brigade, in a telephone call to a Rome newspaper, has said it kidnapped the Christian Democratic leader, 61.
A spokesman said: "We kidnapped Aldo Moro. He is only our first victim. We shall hit at the heart of the state."
The man demanded that the Turin trial of Renato Curcio, who is suspected of leading the Red Brigade, and 14 others accused of membership of the group should be suspended.
Witnesses reported seeing a white Fiat car move in front of Mr Moro's vehicle, along with a man on a motorbike. The Fiat braked hard and Mr Moro's car crashed into it.
Gunmen jumped out of the Fiat and others who had been waiting nearby raised pistols and sub-machine guns.
Trade unions have called a 24-hour general strike and workers have left many shops and offices in the city in a shocked reaction to the kidnapping of the much-respected statesman.
Investigators are examining spent bullet cases at the scene of the crime and among guns seized they found "a rarely used Soviet weapon".
Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti has condemned those who took Mr Moro, saying they were "destroying the fabric of the nation and threatening to make it ungovernable".
In the aftermath of the kidnapping, security forces made hundreds of raids in Rome, Milan, Turin and other cities in their search for Mr Moro.
For two months, Mr Moro was held at a secret location in Rome allowing him to send letters to his family and politicians - begging the government to negotiate with his captors.
The government refused all pleas from family, friends and the Pope Paul VI to concede to any demands.
Eight weeks after he was kidnapped, the body of Mr Moro was found riddled with bullets in the boot of a car in Via Caetani in central Rome.
The Red Brigade was a left-wing terrorist group formed in 1970 with the sole aim of overthrowing capitalist Italy by violent means. Most of their leading members had been captured and imprisoned by the mid-1980s.
I was there
I was in the Navy stationed in Naples, Italy, when Moro was kidnapped by the Red Brigade.
For what seemed like weeks the police went door to door in Naples looking for Moro.
It was a time when the Nato officers told us to stay real calm when approached by the Italian police. When driving down any road you would see police with machine guns ready to shoot whoever.
Strange days indeed.
Roy Pemberton, USA
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