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1978: Italy mourns murdered statesman

The murdered Italian politician Aldo Moro has been buried after a private funeral service and the Interior Minister, Francesco Cossiga, has resigned.

Italians stopped work to pay tribute to Mr Moro, leader of the ruling Christian Democrat Party who was twice prime minister and considered the chief candidate for president.

"A stain of blood that dishonours our country"

Pope Paul VI on the murder of Aldo Moro

He was also the architect of a plan to include the Communists in government for the first time in Italy's history - a plan which came into being the day after he was captured 55 days ago.

Mr Moro was kidnapped on 16 March after left-wing Red Brigade gunmen ambushed his car killing his chauffeur and five policemen.

For eight weeks, they held him at a secret location in Rome allowing him to send letters to his family and fellow politicians begging the government to negotiate with his captors.

They demanded the release of 13 Red Brigade members. It is reported that in the last few days the kidnappers told Mr Moro's family they would release him if just one of their gang were released.

The government, under President Giulio Andreotti, resolutely refused all pleas from family, friends, even the Pope himself to concede to any demands.

Eight weeks after he was taken, his body was found riddled with bullets in the boot of a red Renault 5 parked strategically between the headquarters of the ruling Christian Democrat Party and Communist Party HQ in central Rome.

When news of his death broke out, crowds gathered round the car and police had to force their way through to let Mr Cossiga identify the body.

In a public statement, Mr Cossiga then said he was responsible for the decision not to negotiate with the kidnappers and was now stepping down from his post.

About 100,000 people crammed into the St John Lateran square in Rome to protest against the killing holding up banners that read "Murderers" and black-bordered photos of Mr Moro.

The crowd chanted "Moro lives" and union leaders made emotional speeches calling for a united front against terrorism.

Pope Paul VI, a personal friend of Mr Moro who had pleaded with the government to negotiate with the Red Brigade, said the murder was "a stain of blood that dishonours our country".

The pontiff was addressing Italy's parliament which today voted in tough new anti-terrorist legislation aimed at the Red Brigade.

In Context
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.

The daring kidnap and murder of such a well-known and respected statesman such as Aldo Moro left the nation in a state of numbed shock. There were some who said police incompetence in finding him and government intransigence were all part of a grand conspiracy.

Francesco Cossiga was not long out of power. The following year he became prime minister and was Italy's president from 1985 to 1992.

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