In a letter appearing in the weekend edition of the respected Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, former Italian President Francesco Cossiga revealed that the government of Italy agreed to allow Arab terrorist groups freedom of movement in the country in exchange for immunity from attacks in Italy.
Cossiga wrote that the government of the late Prime Minister Aldo Moro reached a "secret non-belligerence pact between the Italian state and Palestinian resistance organizations, including terrorist groups," in the 1970s. According to the former president, it was Moro himself who designed the terms of the agreement with the foreign Arab terrorists. Ironically, Moro later met his death at the hands of homegrown Italian terrorists, the Red Brigades, in 1978.
"The terms of the agreement were that the Palestinian organizations could even maintain armed bases of operation in the country, and they had freedom of entry and exit without being subject to normal police controls, because they were 'handled' by the secret services," Cossiga explained.
As Interior Minister, Cossiga said that he learned PLO members in Italy had diplomatic immunity as representatives of the Arab League. When he became alarmed by the heavy weapons defenses installed around the homes of PLO members living in Rome, the guards were persuaded to switch to light arms.
Cossiga was later elected president of Italy from 1985-1992 and is today a senator-for-life in the Italian legislature.
In his letter, the former Italian president also linked the Arab terrorist groups of the 1970s with the Italian far-left.
"The Palestinian organizations could even maintain armed bases of operation in the country." - Cossiga
According to Cossiga, he received a telegram from the head of an anti-Israel terrorist group headquartered at the time in Beirut requesting the return of one of their surface-to-air missiles that had gone missing. The missile was intercepted by Italian police while being "driven on the streets by a well-known ideologue of the extra-parliamentary left!" Cossiga wrote.
In an article in Corriere della Sera the week before Cossiga's admission, a former leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) also claimed that his terror group and the Italian leadership had reached an accord protecting Italy from attack in exchange for Italian non-interference in PFLP activities in Italy. The former PFLP boss, Bassam Abu Sharif, later became a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and personal advisor to the late terrorist leader Yasser Arafat.
While there were several terrorist attacks on targets in Italy in the years following the alleged "protection" deal, most of them could be traced to Abu Nidal's terrorist organization. Abu Nidal rejected the authority of the PLO leadership and many of his attacks, including those in Rome, were assassinations of PLO figures and other Arab diplomats.
Hedva Cesana contributed to this report.