Aftermath of right-wing terrorist bombing in Piazza della Loggia in Brescia, Italy, on May 28, 1974, that left eight people dead and more than 100 injured. [Source:]

A new trial, expected to start shortly in the District of Brescia, Northern Italy, is grounded on the accusation that NATO bases in the region of Veneto provided orientation, training and support to infamous right-wing terrorist organizations, most notably Ordine Nuovo.

In May 1974, Ordine Nuovo operatives planted a bomb at an anti-fascist rally in Piazza della Loggia in Brescia, Italy, east of Milan, killing eight people and wounding more than 100 others.

The bombing was part of a wave of terrorist acts supported by U.S. military intelligence, the CIA and NATO. In this case a main purpose appears to have been to intimidate Italy’s political left. A December 1969 bombing at the Piazza Fontana in Milan, which killed 17 people, was directly blamed on Italy’s left—which had been gaining in political strength–in an attempt to discredit it.

The U.S. and NATO were promoting a “strategy of tension” that aimed to create a climate of public fear that would enable passage of draconian anti-terrorist laws while tilting the political balance rightward.[1]

Marco Toffaloni, 66, a Swiss resident believed to be one of those who set off the bomb on May 28, 1974 (when he was only 17), is now facing trial along with former rightist militant Robert Zorzi.

In 2015, a court of appeal in Milan had issued a final life sentence to top Ordine Nuovo (New Order) operatives for ordering the bombing.

While Ordine Nuovo operatives have already been convicted for acts of terror in Italy, with the involvement of U.S.-NATO structures strongly suspected and alleged, this is the first time that the Atlantic Alliance has been formally accused in a court of law of aiding and abetting terrorist groups.

When you think of the city of Verona, Italy, your mind is quite likely to conjure up romantic images of ancient, stylish arenas and, perhaps more frequently, the story of Romeo and Juliet (a statue representing the latter in Verona is visited annually by thousands), made immortal by the famed Shakespeare play.

It may be less well known that the same city is associated with something not as charming or innocuous.

Throughout most of the Cold War period and beyond, Verona also hosted NATO’s Headquarters of the Allied Land Forces in Southern Europe (“HQ LANDSOUTH,” or “FTASE” in Italian).

Activated on July 10, 1951, and a crucial part of the Allied Forces in Southern Europe, the FTASE base, headquartered in the Carli Palace, was specifically conceived, to counter a possible Soviet invasion from neighboring ex-Yugoslavia.

The Carli Palace in Via Roma, Verona. [Source: Wikipedia]

The base ceased its operations in July 2004.

Decades of criminal investigations have now exposed much more of a sinister involvement of this NATO unit in Italian history.

This author reported on the criminal investigation by Milan prosecutor Guido Salvini into the notorious Piazza Fontana massacre of December 12, 1969.

Beginning in the 1990s, Salvini was able to expose a dense, complex hub of right-wing extremists, mostly tied to neo-fascist organization Ordine Nuovo (“ON”, to which Carlo Digilio, Salvini’s top insider witness, was affiliated), and high-level NATO and U.S. officials, operating mostly out of the related military bases in Veneto, designed to carry out various destabilization plans pursuing an ultimate anti-Communist, authoritarian purpose.

A person in a trench coat and tie

Description automatically generated
Guido Salvini [Source:]

Representatives of ON were identified and ultimately found out to be responsible for carrying out not only the Piazza Fontana attack, but also the closely related bombing in Piazza della Loggia in Brescia, on May 28, 1974, which killed eight people, mostly labor union and left-wing activists.

The aftermath of the Piazza della Loggia bombing. [Source:]

Criminal investigations and trials into the Brescia attack have not only completely vindicated the findings of Salvini, originally massively antagonized or dismissed, but have taken the matter to quite a different, higher level.

A criminal trial is in fact set to commence in September, against newly identified ON defendant Marco Toffaloni, where NATO is engaged explicitly, through its FTASE base in Verona, for having been involved directly in the planning of the Brescia bombing.

It is essential to retrace the steps that ultimately led to this stunning outcome.

Italian officials’ admissions on U.S./NATO-ON connection

During the first decade of the 21st century, high-level Italian political and military officials finally made extremely sensitive disclosures, fleshing out the evidence uncovered by Guido Salvini and exposing more of a direct involvement of U.S. military and intelligence in acts of terrorism in Italy.

Probably the most authoritative came from Senator-for-Life Paolo Emilio Taviani, a prominent member of the Italian Christian Democratic Party.

Taviani, an anti-fascist partisan during World War II, had been Minister of Defense and Minister of the Interior.

He also played a decisive role in the process leading to the Italian membership of NATO and the Italian stay-behind structure created consequently, which was known as “Gladio” in Italy.

He was, in plain language, a “pillar” of the Atlantic alliance in Italy.

Paolo Emilio Taviani [Source:]

In what could be described as a death-bed confession, Taviani made a crucial revelation in his memoir “Politica a memoria d’uomo,” published posthumously in 2002. He died in June 2001.

Acknowledging that recent criminal investigations had confirmed the role of Ordine Nuovo in the Piazza Fontana bombing, Taviani conceded that part of the explosive used for the attack had been delivered to ON operatives by a “North American agent,” stationed in Germany.

Taviani elaborated that the agent in question “was not affiliated with the CIA, but came from a German base…These Americans belonged to a special secret branch of the U.S. armed forces, based first in Panama and then in Aruba [Dutch Antilles].”[2]

No one had ever previously disclosed such specific and detailed information.

Tellingly, this critical revelation was included in the book chapter titled “A few things never said before.”

Due to their sensitivity, the memoirs of Taviani have been inserted to the trial file of several criminal proceedings, including the most recent trials on the Bologna station bombing.

Taviani had ultimately come to this confession through a long, tortured process of reconciliation.

In 1997, Taviani had testified to the Parliamentary Commission on Massacres, where he anticipated that he had additional, extra-sensitive confessions to make, that he would entrust to his memoirs.

Even so, during that testimony Taviani endorsed the view that U.S. intelligence was “implicated in the preparation of the events leading to [the] Piazza Fontana” bombing (in 1995, Prosecutor Salvini had filed an intermediate report on his investigation, which was expanded and then ultimately incorporated in the 1998 indictment).

Taviani also criticized CIA policies in Italy in the 1960s, 1970s (and “even in the 1980s,” in his own words), which would adhere, in his view, to “one line only: a most obtuse anticommunism, with an absolute disregard and lack of understanding toward what was happening in the PCI [Italian Communist Party], following the new line of [PCI leader Enrico] Berlinguer.”[3]

Despite the relative restraint of his comments, the 1997 testimony of Taviani was considered so sensitive that the Senator-for-Life himself, during his deposition, moved repeatedly to continue under executive session, and keep the record secret.

The testimony of Taviani to the Commission was ultimately declassified, in its entirety, only on July 22, 2020, 23 years after its original presentation.

General Gianadelio Maletti, long-time member of Italian military counterintelligence in the 1970s, testified repeatedly on the events surrounding the Piazza Fontana massacre, of which he had intimate knowledge.

In an interview to Italy’s second daily newspaper, La Repubblica, Maletti admitted that he had learned that the explosive used for the Piazza Fontana attack by ON came from military units stationed in Germany: “The counter espionage office of Padova reported that loads of explosives were being delivered to Ordine Nuovo from Germany…We found out and reported that the explosive used in Piazza Fontana came from one of these deliveries.[4]

It is important to note that, while not in the same, explicit form, Maletti confirmed repeatedly, in trial testimonies and book interviews, that the explosive deployed for the Piazza Fontana attack originated in a military base in Germany.

General Maletti []

It has been duly noted that exceptionally important U.S. military intelligence units were stationed in Germany during the Cold War.[5]

Connecting the dots: The Borsi di Parma bombshell

Even before Salvini completed his investigation into the Piazza Fontana attack, external witnesses provided critical, independent corroboration of his findings.

An extremely authoritative and disturbing confirmation of the intimate, semi-institutional ties between Atlantic military structures and the far-right organization of ON, came from General Vittorio Emanuele Borsi di Parma.

Borsi di Parma was Chief of Staff in the III Italian Armed Forces Unit in Padova, Veneto, in the first half of the 1960s.

On December 30, 1997, he was interrogated by Public Prosecutor Carlo Mastelloni in an unrelated criminal proceeding, concerning the terrorist attack that brought down Italian military aircraft “Argo 16.”

General Borsi di Parma [Source: Guardia di Finanza]

Borsi di Parma testified that he had learned from Italian military intelligence (known through the acronym “SIFAR” at the time) of “a far-right paramilitary organization, probably known as ‘Ordine Nuovo,’ supported by NATO security services…It was a typically American structure, supplied with weapons and radio equipment….I believe that the Americans trained the above-mentioned structure and I think the same depended on FTASE Command, based in Verona.”[6]

The understanding of General Borsi di Parma was that the role of such a paramilitary organization was of infiltration, contrast and guerrilla resistance in case of a foreign invasion, characteristic of a “stay-behind” structure.

As anticipated, criminal investigations and trials have conclusively demonstrated that ON was also a terrorist organization, involved in some of the direst, politically motivated massacres in Italian history.

The shocking admission of Borsi di Parma was confirmed by another top military official, General Umberto Nardini: “We knew of a paramilitary organization…Ordine Nuovo, supported by NATO’s security services.”[7]

The hindsight casts a new light on Borsi di Parma’s revelations, which also provide crucial corroboration of the admissions of ON insiders.

This holds true not only with respect to the Piazza Fontana case, but also as to the “new” Brescia trials for the Piazza della Loggia bombing.

Covert action experts and whistleblowers may be acquainted with an old tenet: the more explosive the revelation, the more eclipsed it is in mainstream media.

In very few instances has that proven more true than with the Borsi di Parma disclosures.

As of this day, i.e., 36 years after, his crucial concession has been buried almost completely, to the point that not only exceptionally few references to it are available, but that even sympathetic and diligent researchers into contemporary Italian history of terrorism have completely missed this finding.[8]

The 2000s’ Brescia trial on the Piazza della Loggia bombing

Largely based on Salvini’s investigation findings, criminal investigations have been expanded or resumed with respect to the Piazza Fontana and, more importantly, the Piazza della Loggia attack in Brescia of May 1974.

In the new Brescia inquiries, the prosecution’s investigating team was able to provide factual verification of decisive information, shared by Salvini’s key witness Digilio and other insiders, which could not have been validated in the Piazza Fontana trial.

It is essential to note that the network of right-wing extremists and intelligence and military connections, investigated in the Piazza della Loggia trial, was largely the same as in the Piazza Fontana investigation, beginning with ON Venetian leader Carlo Maria Maggi, who was in fact a defendant in both trials.

The Brescia trial led to the definitive conviction, in 2017, of Carlo Maria Maggi and Maurizio Tramonte, both from Veneto and affiliated with ON, for participating in the Brescia bombing.

Historical ON operatives Carlo Maria Maggi, left, and Maurizio Tramonte. [Source:]

Maggi, a high-level member of ON in Veneto who was involved in many of the terror-related events of the time, including Piazza Fontana, was identified as one of the masterminds of the massacre.

Tramonte was sentenced as one of the perpetrators of the Brescia attack. Disturbingly enough, he was also a former intelligence asset.

Tramonte reported extensively on the presence of U.S. officials in several meetings of ON operatives, which were arranged in preparation of the Piazza della Loggia attack and other terrorism planning.[9]

Digilio’s disclosures were crucial to the prosecution case in Brescia, which supplemented the evidence from the original Milan investigation with a trove of new findings, and were ultimately validated by the final rulings.

The Court of Cassation, the national last-instance court in Italy, in invalidating the original acquittal in the Piazza della Loggia trial, and then in confirming the now-definitive conviction, overwhelmingly endorsed the credibility of Digilio and Tramonte.[10]

The Cassation Court also chastised previous lower court judgments, for violating procedural rules and methodology, in their undermining of Digilio’s and Tramonte’s reliability, which had resulted in undue acquittals.

The last hyper-sensitive act in Brescia: the “third-level trial”

The new evidence arising from the testimony of witnesses, first discovered by Salvini, led to the recent prosecution of ON neo-fascists Roberto Zorzi and Marco Toffaloni, for participating in the Brescia attack.

Roberto Zorzi in his youth, left, and Marco Toffaloni. [Source: Corriere del Veneto]

This has been called the “third-level” trial, because, for the first time, NATO bases in the Veneto region are explicitly targeted for having been involved with the neo-fascists executing the attack.

It was top insider, and far-right activist himself, Giampaolo Stimamiglio, originally followed by the Milan prosecutor, who ultimately led to the indictment of Toffaloni.

According to Stimamiglio, during a reunion of former comrades, Toffaloni, a neo-fascist from Verona who was just 17 years old at the time and is now a Swiss citizen, confessed to him that he was the one who placed the bomb in Piazza della Loggia.

Following this explosive lead, investigators proceeded with a careful re-examination of the photographic record from the day of the attack.

An expert consultant for the prosecution has concluded that one of the people identified in the pictures was, in fact, Marco Toffaloni, who was officially in Verona that day.

As to Roberto Zorzi—although just 20 years old at the time but nonetheless a leader of the far-right organization Ordine Nero in Verona—he is now supposedly a dog breeder and, interestingly enough, a resident of the United States.

He stands accused of having attended the last preparatory meetings for the bombing in Brescia.

On April 5, 2023, a Juvenile Court in Brescia formally ordered Toffaloni to stand trial, which is expected to start in September 2023.

An extremely confidential source for the prosecution, whose identity is still secret, has also shared detailed, sensitive information on the NATO connection.

La Repubblica reported that, according to this source, in the offices of Palazzo Carli, headquarter of the NATO base in Verona, “meetings in preparation of the Piazza della Loggia operation took place, in the presence of high-level officials, who would dictate the strategy and provide the cover for the neo-Nazi manpower.” [11]

No Italian or U.S. official (few may still be alive) has yet been charged in this matter.

The Lion of St. Mark, mascot of the “FTASE” base. [Source: Wikipedia]

If the track record is of any reference, it is wildly implausible that they ever will.

However, the evidence surfaced in the last Brescia investigation accounts for astonishing corroboration of insiders’ previous testimony, provided in the Brescia and Milan investigations, most notably by Carlo Digilio and General Borsi di Parma.

Combined with the disclosures of Taviani and Maletti, they result in an organic, coherent portrait of the U.S.-NATO connection to right-wing terrorism in Italy.

Just like any accused, the defendants in the “third-level trial” must be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Yet, one cannot fail to note that, as far as NATO involvement is concerned, history has already served a very severe judgment.

  1. See Daniele Ganser, NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe (New York: Routledge, 2004).

  2. Paolo Emilio Taviani, Politica a Memoria d’Uomo, Il Mulino editions, 2002, p. 381.

  3. Testimony of Paolo Emilio Taviani to the Parliamentary Commission on Massacres, July 11, 1997, p. 17.

  4. La Repubblica, “Maletti, la spia latitante, La Cia dietro quelle bombe,” August 4, 2000.

  5. Colonel Giraudo, the lead investigator for Prosecutor Salvini, remarked that the 66th Military Intelligence Unit was stationed in the country. Germany also hosted the sensitive 10th Special Forces Group, in Bad Tölz.

  6. Interrogation of Emanuele Borsi di Parma, December 30, 1997, f. 16920, on file in the Argo 16 criminal trial, Venice District.

  7. Quoted in the indictment filed by Venice Prosecutor Mastelloni in the Argo 16 criminal investigation, December 11, 1998.

  8. Even more than other yet under-reported evidence in this matter, the revelations from Borsi di Parma are virtually non-existent in non-Italian scholarly and investigative works.

  9. The final statement filed with the Brescia court by Prosecutors Roberto di Martino and Francesco Piantoni, dated November 1, 2010, covers in great detail the ultra-sensitive disclosures from Tramonte, both as military counterintelligence source and as key witness in the investigation.

  10. Corte Suprema di Cassazione, in the Criminal Judgment against Maggi and Tramonte, February 21, 2014, and June 20, 2017, respectively.

  11. La Repubblica, “Strage di Brescia, il processo senza fine – chiesto il giudizio per due neofascisti,” October 6, 2022.

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  1. Thank you for the article Denis. Knew much of the history in Italy but not the details of this tragedy. Since Russia military operation in Ukraine Feb 2022, I have become even more disillusioned with my country of birth.

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