ROME — Terrorists Saturday murdered an Italian senator who was a key political adviser and close friend of incoming Prime Minister Ciriaco De Mita in a resurgence of extremist violence aimed at "the heart of the state."
The assassination of unprotected Sen. Roberto Ruffilli in the home of relatives in northern Italy caught Italian anti-terrorist police looking the other way. They had no sooner identified two accomplices of a Japanese terrorist believed responsible for a car bombing in Naples Thursday when Ruffilli's killers called a newspaper to report their crime hundreds of miles away.
By Saturday night, two nationwide manhunts were under way for terrorists with different targets: the United States on the one hand, and Italian democracy on the other. Police made no immediate connection between the two attacks.
Thursday's bombing outside a USO club for American service personnel in Naples was blamed on the Japanese Red Army acting on behalf of Palestinian terrorists who said in a telephone call that they were waging a "holy war" against the "forces of imperialism." The blast killed four Italians and a U.S. Navy petty officer and wounded 17 other people.
Police reported Saturday that Junzo Okudaira, the presumed mastermind of the bombing, was aided by a Japanese woman, Fusako Shigenobu, and a man whom they described either as Middle Eastern or North African. A report from Tokyo described Shigenobu as the leader of the Red Army.
The slaying of Ruffilli, in Forli near Bologna, was claimed by the Fighting Communist Party, the most violent faction of the extremist Red Brigades, who have waged sporadic terror against the Italian state for almost 20 years.
Ruffilli, a balding, bespectacled and widely respected history professor who has served five years in the Senate, was one of De Mita's closest collaborators in the formation of a new government scheduled to take office this week. A constitutional expert, the 51-year-old Ruffilli was instrumental in framing the call for institutional reform within a program that helped fellow Christian Democrat De Mita reassemble a fractious five-party coalition last week.
De Mita, described by aides as "torn apart" by news of the killing, met in emergency session with Interior Ministry and police officials in Rome Saturday night and then left for Forli.
"The barbarians have cowardly assassinated in the quiet of his own home a gentle man of study and thought, an intellectual on loan to politics," the anguished prime minister-designate said Saturday night. "In tragic coincidence with the slaughter in Naples, the work of international terrorism, the Red Brigades have raised their head again and struck at a decisive political moment."
Fellow senators Saturday night described Ruffilli, who was not well-known publicly, as a behind-the-scenes linchpin of De Mita's promised attempt to modernize cumbersome political institutions. As such, he was a perfect target for Italian left-wing terrorists, who seek to destabilize and eventually destroy the democratic system.
After helping put the final touches on De Mita's new government program, Ruffilli, like millions of urban Italians, journeyed to a weekend retreat in the country town where he was born.
He was resting alone in a relative's home in Forli, four hours' drive from Rome, when terrorists knocked on the door Saturday afternoon. He let them in, police said. They shot him in the back of the head.
Paper Told of Killing
A short while later, a caller told the Bologna bureau of the Rome newspaper La Repubblica in unaccented Italian: "We have executed Sen. Ruffilli, attacking the heart of the state. Red Brigades for the Formation of the Fighting Communist Party." Reporters called anti-terrorist police, who made hurried calls of their own before discovering where he had gone for the weekend. His body was on a couch in the living room. There was no sign of forced entry or disorder.
As in Naples, Italy has often been the site of international terrorism, but its indigenous terrorists have been decimated in the 10 years since they kidnaped and murdered former Christian Democratic Prime Minister Aldo Moro. Over the past four years, splinter groups of the original Red Brigades, most of whose leaders are in jail, have staged occasional attacks, including the killings of an American diplomat attached to the multinational observer force in the Sinai, the former mayor of Florence, an Italian economics professor and an Italian general. The terrorists netted almost $1 million in an armored car robbery last year, in which they killed two policemen.
Before the Ruffilli killing, anti-terrorist police in Naples had issued a picture of Shigenobu, 42, who one terrorist expert in Tokyo told the Associated Press on Saturday was the leader of the Japanese Red Army.
According to police, witnesses saw her in Garibaldi Square in Naples with Okudaira nine hours before the bomb blast outside the USO Thursday night.