Bologna massacre

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Bologna massacre
Ruins of the west wing of Bologna station following the detonation of the bomb.
LocationBologna Central Station
Date2 August 1980
10:25 (UTC+1)
Attack type
Bomb attack
Non-fatal injuries
PerpetratorsLuigi Ciavardini,
Valerio Fioravanti and Francesca Mambro (members of the Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari)

The Bologna massacre (Italian: strage di Bologna) was a terrorist bombing of the Central Station at Bologna, Italy, on the morning of 2 August 1980, which killed 85 people and wounded more than 200. Several members of the neo-fascist terrorist organization Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari (Armed Revolutionary Groups) were sentenced for the bombing,[1] although the group itself denied involvement. The bombing was the fourth deadliest terrestrial terrorist attack in Western Europe behind the Nice attack in July 2016, the Paris attacks in November 2015, and the Madrid train bombings in March 2004.


Rescuers carrying a victim.

At 10:25 CEST, a time bomb hidden in an unattended suitcase detonated inside an air-conditioned waiting room at the Bologna station. As air conditioning was uncommon in Italy, the room was full of people seeking refuge from the August heat. The explosion collapsed the roof of the waiting room, destroyed most of the main building, and hit the AnconaChiasso train that was waiting at the first platform.[2]

Bystanders assisted with the rescue operations.

On that Saturday, the station was full of tourists, and the city was unprepared for such a massive incident. Many citizens and travelers provided first aid to victims and helped to extract people buried under the rubble.

Because of a large number of casualties, and an insufficient supply of emergency vehicles available to transport the injured to the hospitals, firefighters also employed buses (particularly those from the #37 route), private cars, and taxis. To provide care to the victims, doctors and hospital staff returned early from vacation. Some hospital departments that had were closed for summer holidays were reopened to allow the admission of all patients.

In the following days the central square of Bologna, Piazza Maggiore, hosted large-scale demonstrations of anger and protest by the population. Harsh criticism was directed toward government representatives, who attended the funerals of the victims celebrated in the Basilica San Petronio on 6 August. The only applause was reserved for President Sandro Pertini, who arrived by helicopter in Bologna at 17:30 on the day of the massacre, and said in tears in front of reporters: "I have no words, we are facing the most criminal enterprise that has ever taken place in Italy."[3]

The #37 bus, along with the clock stopped at 10:25, remained a symbol of the massacre. The attack was recorded as the worst atrocity in Italy since World War II.[4]


The Italian government, led by Christian Democrat Prime Minister Francesco Cossiga, first assumed that the explosion was due to an accidental explosion of an old boiler located in the basement of the station. However, the evidence soon pointed to an act of terrorism.[5] L'Unità, the newspaper of the Italian Communist Party (PCI), on 3 August attributed responsibility for the attack to neo-fascists. Later, in a special session to the Senate, Cossiga supported the theory that neo-fascists were behind the attack, "unlike leftist terrorism, which strikes at the heart of the state through its representatives, right-wing terrorism prefers acts such as the massacre because acts of extreme violence promote panic and impulsive reactions."[6][7]

The bomb was later found to be composed of 23 kg of explosive, a mixture of 5 kg of TNT and Composition B, improved from 18 kg of T4 (nitroglycerin for civil use).[8]

Misinformation and false leads[edit]

Shortly after the bombing, the press agency ANSA received a call from someone purporting to represent NAR and claiming responsibility. The call later proved to be fake and to have originated from the Florence office of SISMI, the Italian Military Secret Service. Federigo Manucci Benincasa, director of the Florence branch of SISMI, would later be charged with obstruction of justice.

In September 1980, a "Lebanese connection" was manufactured, involving Al Fatah, Phalangists, Italian radicals and Swiss journalists tied to the Italian intelligence community, who supplied investigators with fake notes, memos, and reports.[9] This was followed by a "KGB connection" concocted by intelligence head General Giuseppe Santovito, a member of P2 and Francesco Pazienza.

Generals Pietro Musumeci, a member of P2, and Belmonte of SISMI had a police sergeant put a suitcase full of explosives, of the same type that blew up the station, on a train in Bologna. The suitcase also contained personal items of two right-wing extremists, a Frenchman, and a German. Musumeci also produced a phony dossier called "Terror on trains." Musumeci was charged with falsifying evidence to incriminate Roberto Fiore and Gabriele Adinolfi, two leaders of Terza Posizione who had fled to London.[10] Both Terza Posizione leaders claimed that Musumeci was trying to divert attention from Licio Gelli (head of the "Masonic" lodge P2).[10]

Gelli and Pazienza were convicted of obstructing the investigation, as were Musumeci and Belmonte of SISMI.

Prosecution and trial[edit]

The attack has been attributed to the NAR (Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari), a neo-fascist terrorist organization. A long and controversial court case began after the bombing. Francesca Mambro and Giuseppe Fioravanti were sentenced to life imprisonment.

In April 2007, the Supreme Court affirmed the conviction of Luigi Ciavardini, a NAR member associated closely with close ties to Terza Posizione. Ciavardini received a 30-year prison sentence for his role in the attack.[11] Ciavardini had been arrested following the armed robbery of the Banca Unicredito di Roma on 15 September 2005.[12][13] Ciavardini was also charged with the assassination of Francesco Evangelista on 28 May 1980, and the assassination of Judge Mario Amato on 23 June 1980.[13]

On 26 August 1980, the prosecutor of Bologna issued twenty-eight arrest warrants against far-right militants of the NAR and Terza Posizione. Among those arrested were Massimo Morsello (a future founder of Forza Nuova), Francesca Mambro, Aldo Semerari, Maurizio Neri, and fascist militant Paolo Signorelli. They were interrogated in Ferrara, Rome, Padua, and Parma. All were released from prison in 1981.

Main stages of the trial:

  • Bologna, 9 March 1987: first trial.
    • Accused of murder: Massimiliano Fachini, Valerio Fioravanti, Francesca Mambro, Sergio Picciafuoco, Roberto Rinani and Paolo Signorelli.
    • Accused of forming an armed gang: Gilberto Cavallini, Fachini, Fioravanti, Egidio Giuliani, Marcello Iannilli, Mambro, Giovanni Melioli, Picciafuoco, Roberto Raho, Rinani and Signorelli.
    • Accused of subversive association: Marco Ballan, Giuseppe Belmonte, Fabio De Felice, Stefano Delle Chiaie, Fachini, Licio Gelli, Maurizio Giorgi, Pietro Musumeci, Francesco Pazienza, Signorelli and Adriano Tilgher.
    • Accused of defamation to ensure impunity for the massacre's perpetrators: Belmonte, Gelli, Musumeci and Pazienza.[14]
  • 11 July 1988: Judgment:
    • Life imprisonment for the crime of murder: Fachini, Fioravanti, Mambro and Picciafuoco. Acquitted: Rinani and Signorelli.
    • Convicted of forming an armed gang: Cavallini, Fachini, Fioravanti, Giuliani, Mambro, Picciafuoco, Rinani and Signorelli. Acquitted: Iannilli, Melioli and Raho.
    • Acquitted of subversive association: Ballan, Belmonte, Felice, Delle Chiaie, Fachini, Gelli, Giorgi, Musumeci, Pazienza, Signorelli and Tilgher.
    • Convicted of defamation to ensure impunity for the massacre's perpetrators: Belmonte, Gelli, Musumeci and Pazienza.[14]
  • 25 October 1989: The appeal process begins.[14]
  • 18 July 1990: Judgment on appeals:
    • Acquitted of murder: Fachini, Fioravanti, Mambro, Picciafuoco, Rinani and Signorelli.
    • Convicted of forming an armed gang: Cavallini, Fioravanti, Mambro and Giuliani.
    • Convicted of defamation: Belmonte and Musumeci (acquitted of subversive association). The other defendants were acquitted.[14]

On 12 February 1992, the united sections of the Criminal Court of Cassation acquitted Rinani and Signorelli of the charge of murder. Signorelli was also acquitted for armed gang and subversive association. The court also acquitted a number of other defendants facing various charges, cancelled the judgment and ordered a new trial. The court declared the appeal process must be redone because the sentences were deemed "illogical, incoherent, not assessing proofs and evidence in good terms, not taking into account the facts preceding and following the event, unmotivated or poorly motivated, in some parts the judges supporting unlikely arguments that not even the defense had argued".

  • 11 October 1993: The new appeal trial begins.
    • Accused of murder: Massimiliano Fachini, Valerio Fioravanti, Francesca Mambro and Sergio Picciafuoco.
    • Accused of forming an armed gang: Gilberto Cavallini, Massimiliano Fachini, Egidio Giuliani, Valerio Fioravanti, Francesca Mambro, Sergio Picciafuoco and Roberto Rinani.
    • Accused of defamation to ensure impunity for the massacre's perpetrators: Giuseppe Belmonte, Licio Gelli, Pietro Musumeci, and Francesco Pazienza.
  • 16 May 1994: Judgment:
    • Life imprisonment for the crime of murder: Valerio Fioravanti, Francesca Mambro and Sergio Picciafuoco. Acquitted: Massimiliano Fachini.
    • Convicted of forming an armed gang: Gilberto Cavallini, Valerio Fioravanti, Egidio Giuliani, Francesca Mambro and Sergio Picciafuoco. Acquitted: Massimiliano Fachini and Roberto Rinani.
    • Convicted of defamation to ensure impunity for the massacre's perpetrators: Giuseppe Belmonte, Licio Gelli, Pietro Musumeci, and Francesco Pazienza.
  • 23 November 1995: The Supreme Court confirms the sentence, ordering a new trial for Picciafuoco. Confirmation of life imprisonment for Fioravanti and Mambro, members of the NAR (who have always maintained their innocence) for executing the attack. Sentence for investigation diversion to Gelli (headmaster of P2), Pazienza and SISMI officers Musumeci and Belmonte.
  • 18 June 1996: The Appeals Court in Florence acquits Picciafuoco.
  • 15 April 1997: The Supreme Court confirms the sentence.

In April 1998, Mambro was given a form of home-detention in which she was allowed to leave prison leave during the day.[15]

In June 2000, Massimo Carminati (NAR member), Ivano Bongiovanni (far-right sympathiser) and Federigo Manucci Benincasa (SISMI officer) were convicted for obstruction. Carminati and Manucci Benincasa were acquitted for lack of evidence in December 2001, while the use of Bongiovanni was declared unreliable (the conviction becomes final).[16] On 30 January 2003, the Court of Cassation finally acquitted Carminati and Manucci Benincasa.

Alternative hypotheses[edit]

Funerals of the victims.

As a result of the protracted legal procedures and numerous false leads, a number of theories took hold over the years following the attack:

  • A theory suggests that officials in the Italian Secret Service were involved, along with members of the secret organization known as the P2.[17]
  • In a 1994 edition of the right-wing weekly L'Italia Settimanale, a piece entitled "History of the First Republic" linked the Bologna attack with the Ustica massacre and compared it to the cases of Enrico Mattei and Aldo Moro. Without disputing the court rulings that have recognized the perpetrators, the text was intended to identify the masterminds. The text reads:

Italy since the birth of the First Republic was, as everyone knows, a country with limited sovereignty (...) now, when, for immediate issues ( ...) has – rarely – made choices that have been found contrary to the covenants to which I said, it made, as said in a mafia-political-diplomatic terms, a sgarro, a "bad mistake". And like in the mafia when a kid is wrong he ends up in some concrete pillar or is deprived of a relative (commonly called "cross-revenge"), so it is among states: When any country is wrong, one does not declare war, but it sends a "warning", as a bomb exploding in a square, on a train, a ship, etc. etc.

  • Between 1999 and 2006, during sessions of the parliamentary commission established to probe terrorism in Italy and the failure to identify those responsible for the massacre (XIII legislature, 1996–2001), as well as those of a commission investigating the Mitrokhin dossier and the activity of Italian intelligence (XIV legislature, 2001–2006), new elements emerged on international terrorist networks and the Italian secret services of the former Soviet bloc and major Arab countries such as Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Yemen and Iraq. With this information, it was possible to pick up the threads of a plot hidden for 25 years and to discover secret agreements with the Palestinian leadership (known as lodo Moro) tied to arms trafficking between the PFLP and Italy – the threats to the Italian government for the seizure of missiles and the arrest of the PFLP leader in Italy, Abu Saleh Anzeh, in Ortona – the ties of the terrorist Abu Saleh Anzeh with the internationalist Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, alias Carlos – the warning of the Italian antiterrorist secret service three weeks before the massacre, – the failure of the Italian intelligence operations to avoid retaliatory action – the arrival in Italy on 1 August 1980 of Thomas Kram, of a German terrorist group linked to Carlos and the Palestinians, and present in Bologna on the day of the massacre. Faced with this evidence, on 17 November 2005 the Bologna prosecutor opened a case against unknown persons (Dossier 7823/2005 RG).[18]
  • According to media reports in 2004, taken up again in 2007[19] Francesco Cossiga, in a letter addressed to Enzo Fragalà, leader of the AN section in the Mitrokhin Committee, suggests a Palestinian involvement (at the hands of George Habash's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - or by Salah Khalaf according judge Rosario Priore - and the Separat group of Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, known as "Carlos the Jackal") behind the attack.[20] In addition, in 2008 former President Francesco Cossiga gave an interview to BBC in which it reaffirmed its belief that the massacre would not be attributable to black terrorism, but to an "incident" of Palestinian resistance groups operating in Italy. He declares also being convinced of the innocence of Francesca Mambro and Giuseppe Valerio Fioravanti.[21][22] The PFLP has always denied responsibility.[23]
  • In 2005, from his cell in Paris, the pro-Palestinian terrorist Ilich Ramirez Sanchez Carlos stated that "the Mitrokhin Committee attempts to falsify history" and that "they were the CIA and the Mossad to hit in Bologna", with the intent to warn and punish Italy for its relations of mutual trust with the PLO, who had secretly pledged not to hit Italy in exchange for some protection.[24]
  • Following the 2006 arrest of former Argentine Triple A member Rodolfo Almirón, Spanish lawyer José Angel Pérez Nievas declared that it was "probable that Almirón participated — along with Stefano Delle Chiaie and Augusto Cauchi — in the 1980 bombing in Bologna's train station." But the Argentine Supreme Court refused in 1998 to extradite Cauchi to Italy.[25]
  • In May 2007, the son of Massimo Sparti (thug linked to the Banda della Magliana and the main accuser of Fioravanti) declares, "my father in the history of the Bologna process has always lied"[26]
  • On 19 August 2011 the prosecutor of Bologna placed under investigation two German terrorists, Thomas Kram and Christa Margot Fröhlich, both linked to the group of terrorist Carlos, who would be present in Bologna on the day of the attack, thus following the trail of Palestinian terrorism, never accepted by the president of the family victims Paolo Bolognesi and instead repeatedly revived by Francesco Cossiga.[27]


Plaque at the Bologna Central Station

The municipality of Bologna together with the Associazione tra i familiari delle vittime della strage alla stazione di Bologna del 2 agosto 1980 hold an annual international composition competition, which culminates with a concert in the town's main square, Piazza Maggiore, annually on 2 August, which is also the day designated as a national memorial day for all terrorist massacres.

The area of the station where the bomb detonated has been reconstructed but, as a memorial of the attack, the original floor tile pierced by the detonation has been left in place and a deep crack closed by a glass panel has been made in the reconstructed main wall. Strangely, many people have believed the station clock had been stopped since the explosion, even though it hadn't. In 1996, the station clock was stopped at 10:25, the time of the explosion, as a further memorial.[28]

List of victims and their ages[edit]

  • Antonella Ceci, 19
  • Angela Marino, 23
  • Leo Luca Marino, 25
  • Domenica Marino, 26
  • Errica Frigerio, 57
  • Vito Diomede Fresa, 62
  • Cesare Francesco Diomede Fresa, 14
  • Anna Maria Bosio, 28
  • Carlo Mauri, 32
  • Luca Mauri, 6
  • Eckhardt Mader, 14
  • Margret Rohrs, 39
  • Kai Mader, 8
  • Sonia Burri, 7
  • Patrizia Messineo, 18
  • Silvana Serravalli, 34
  • Manuela Gallon, 11
  • Natalia Agostini, 40
  • Marina Antonella Trolese, 16
  • Anna Maria Salvagnini, 51
  • Roberto De Marchi, 21
  • Elisabetta Manea, 60
  • Eleonora Geraci, 46
  • Vittorio Vaccaro, 24
  • Velia Carli, 50
  • Salvatore Lauro, 57
  • Paolo Zecchi, 23
  • Viviana Bugamelli, 23
  • Catherine Helen Mitchell, 22
  • John Andrew Kolpinski, 22
  • Angela Fresu, 3
  • Maria Fresu, 24
  • Loredana Molina, 44
  • Angelica Tarsi, 72
  • Katia Bertasi, 34
  • Mirella Fornasari, 36
  • Euridia Bergianti, 49
  • Nilla Natali, 25
  • Franca Dall'Olio, 20
  • Rita Verde, 23
  • Flavia Casadei, 18
  • Giuseppe Patruno, 18
  • Rossella Marceddu, 19
  • Davide Caprioli, 20
  • Vito Ales, 20
  • Iwao Sekiguchi, 20
  • Brigitte Drouhard, 21
  • Roberto Procelli, 21
  • Mauro Alganon, 22
  • Maria Angela Marangon, 22
  • Verdiana Bivona, 22
  • Francisco Gómez Martínez, 23
  • Mauro Di Vittorio, 24
  • Sergio Secci, 24
  • Roberto Gaiola, 25
  • Angelo Priore, 26
  • Onofrio Zappalà, 27
  • Pio Carmine Remollino, 31
  • Gaetano Roda, 31
  • Antonino Di Paola, 32
  • Mirco Castellaro, 33
  • Nazzareno Basso, 33
  • Vincenzo Petteni, 34
  • Salvatore Seminara, 34
  • Carla Gozzi, 36
  • Umberto Lugli, 38
  • Fausto Venturi, 38
  • Argeo Bonora, 42
  • Francesco Betti, 44
  • Mario Sica, 44
  • Pier Francesco Laurenti, 44
  • Paolino Bianchi, 50
  • Vincenzina Sala, 50
  • Berta Ebner, 50
  • Vincenzo Lanconelli, 51
  • Lina Ferretti, 53
  • Romeo Ruozi, 54
  • Amorveno Marzagalli, 54
  • Antonio Francesco Lascala, 56
  • Rosina Barbaro, 58
  • Irene Breton, 61
  • Pietro Galassi, 66
  • Lidia Olla, 67
  • Maria Idria Avati, 80
  • Antonio Montanari, 86

Victims' association[edit]

Relatives of the victims formed an association (Associazione dei familiari delle vittime della strage alla stazione di Bologna del 2 agosto 1980) to raise and maintain civil awareness about the case.

The victims' association (Associazione tra i familiari delle vittime della strage alla stazione di Bologna del 2 agosto 1980) was formed on 1 June 1981 in order to "get due justice with possible initiatives", made up initially of 44 people; the number of members later grew to 300 elements.

The association in the years following the massacre remained active, both for the memory of the massacre and to propose initiatives that were added to the investigation. Quarterly, its components are used to go to the court, in order to meet prosecutors and, out of the meeting, even launching a news conference for information on the state of things.

On 6 April 1983, the Association, together with the associations of victims of the massacres of Piazza Fontana, Piazza della Loggia and Italicus train, formed, based in Milan, the Union of Relatives of Victims to Massacres (Unione dei Familiari delle Vittime per Stragi).[29]

In popular culture[edit]

The bombing occupies a chapter in The Seventh Function of Language [fr] by Laurent Binet. The 2017 French novel is a satire of the late-20th-century intellectual and political life of Paris,[30] and involves two detectives investigating what they assume to be the murder of the philosopher Roland Barthes. The detectives have traveled to Bologna to interview Umberto Eco, and narrowly escape being injured in the attack.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tassinari, 2008, p. 626
  2. ^ "1980: Bologna blast leaves dozens dead", BBC News
  3. ^ La storia d'Italia, Vol. 23, Dagli anni di piombo agli anni 80, Torino, 2005, pag. 587
  4. ^ Davies, Peter, Jackson, Paul (2008). The far right in Europe: an encyclopedia. Greenwood World Press, p. 238. ISBN 1846450039
  5. ^ "'95 Percent Sure' Station Blast Was Terror Bomb". Associated Press. 3 August 1980.
  6. ^ "Police search starts for Bologna bombers". The Globe and Mail. 5 August 1980.
  7. ^ "Neo-Fascists 'Prefer Massacre'". Reuters. 6 August 1980.
  8. ^ Carlo Lucarelli, Blu notte La strage di Bologna (in Italian).
  9. ^ Ferraresi, Franco. Threats to Democracy, Princeton University Press, 2012, p. 260,n.53 ISBN 9781400822119
  10. ^ a b René Monzat, Enquêtes sur la droite extrême, Le Monde-éditions, 1992, p.89
  11. ^ "Bologna bomber's 30-year jail term confirmed". Associated Press. 11 April 2007.
  12. ^ "Strage di Bologna, 30 anni a Ciavardini—Cassazione conferma la condanna all'ex Nar", la Repubblica, 11 April 2007 (in Italian).
  13. ^ a b "Arrestato l'estremista nero Ciavardini per una rapina a mano armata", la Repubblica, 10 October 2006 (in Italian).
  14. ^ a b c d Sergio Zavoli, La notte della Repubblica, Nuova Eri, 1992 (in Italian).
  15. ^ Anne Hanley, "Bologna bomber slips back into society", The Independent, 16 April 1998 on-line (in English).
  16. ^ "Bologna, due assoluzioni in appello Per la strage non ci fu depistaggio". la Repubblica. 22 December 2001.
  17. ^ Latto, Maria Rita. "The Massacre of Bologna... 30 Years Later", i-Italy, 2 August 2010
  18. ^ Dossier.
  19. ^ "Il giallo della strage di Bologna. Ecco le prove della pista araba", il Giornale, 22 October 2007 (in Italian).
  20. ^ "Strage Bologna: Cossiga, forse atto del terrorismo arabo" Archived 7 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^ "La strage di Bologna, fu un incidente della resistenza palestinese", Corriere della Sera, 8 July 2008 (in Italian).
  22. ^ "Our World: The convenient war against the Jews" Archived 12 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine., Jerusalem Post, 6 October 2008.
  23. ^ [1], Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
  24. ^ "A Bologna a colpire furono Cia e Mossad. Carlos: utilizzati giovani neofascisti, però per me Mambro e Fioravanti sono innocenti", Corriere della Sera, 23 November 2005 (in Italian).
  25. ^ "Denuncian que Almirón también participó en la ultraderecha española" Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine., Telam Argentine news agency, 6 January 2007 (in Spanish).
  26. ^ "Strage di Bologna. Parla il figlio di Sparti, testimone chiave dell'accusa: «Mio padre ha sempre mentito»", Il Sole 24 Ore, 24 May 2007 (in Italian).
  27. ^ "Svolta sulla strage del Due Agosto Indagati due terroristi tedeschi", la Repubblica, 19 August 2011 (in Italian).
  28. ^
  29. ^ The Association was responsible, together with other associations of victims of massacres the publication of the book entitled Il terrorismo e le sue maschere published by Pendragon in Bologna
  30. ^ Elkin, Lauren (2017-05-12). "The 7th Function of Language by Laurent Binet review – who killed Roland Barthes?". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-12-29.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 44°30′22″N 11°20′32″E / 44.50611°N 11.34222°E / 44.50611; 11.34222