On May 19 at 8:00 a.m., an explosive device made of two gas tanks blasted through the vocational high school Francesca Morvillo Falcone in Brindisi, at the same time that students were gathering and preparing to start an ordinary day of class. One student, Melissa Bassi (aged 16), was killed, while seven other students are being treated for severe injuries (one of them, whose identity has not been made public, is allegedly in critical condition).
While no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, several clues would seem to suggest the involvement of organized crime (which in the region is known as the Sacra Corona Unita). Telling signs would be the name of the school, dedicated to the memory of judge Giovanni Falcone and his wife Francesca, killed by a car bomb in 1991, and the fact that its students were awarded a prize for their activity in fostering a culture of legality. The mayor of Brindisi, Cosimo Consales, immediately suggested that organized crime was responsible for this cowardly and merciless attack.
This coincidences immediately brought to mind the atmosphere of the early Nineties, when organized crime reacted to heightened investigations by bombing sensitive targets such as private houses and/or the cars of prosecutors (Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino) alongside public targets such as the National Museum of Gli Uffizi in Florence – the so-called ‘Strage di Via dei Georgofili, which in 1993 killed 5 people, including a 9-year old girl). The similarities between the two periods are not limited to the terrorist attacks: back then, Italy was experiencing heavy social and political unrest, a sweeping crisis of institutional politics and a mounting wave of distrust of politics due to capital scandals and corruption, and a heavy financial crisis that culminated in the abandonment of the European Monetary System in 1992.
Early investigation would appear to point in the same direction, suggesting that the blast might be an answer to the recent reaction against local organized crime. However, Interior Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri has asked the public not to jump to any hasty conclusions, but to wait for the work of detectives and police forces. Cancellieri has also highlighted the unusual and complex nature of the attack, suggesting that it would be at odds with the general research of popular consensus from all forms of organized crime. Pietro Grasso, National Anti-Mafia Prosecutor has declared that all investigative paths are being considered, and he has defined the episode as ‘pure’ terrorism, aiming at indiscriminately killing innocent victims.
Nicola Gratteri, Adjunct Prosecutor at the Court of Reggio Calabria and an expert in organized crime, has declared to the communist newspaper Il Manifesto that he is surprised by the episode, finding it highly unusual that organized crime would attack powerless victims such as high school students. “This does not mean that this slaughter could not have been the deed of organized crime”; he also hastened to add that “this might simply suggest that they are changing their acting modalities, and that we must be particularly alert”.
Other voices have overtly called for different explanations, pointing to the heavy political and social unrest of the past few month (culminating in the victimless blast at one of the Equitalia offices in Rome, and in the kneecapping of Roberto Ansaldo, CEO of the firm “Ansaldo Nucleare”); others, such as the comedian and politician Beppe Grillo and some journalists of the left-leaning newspaper “Il Fatto Quotidiano” have gone as far as to suggest the beginning of a new “Tension Strategy”, similar to the one experienced in the Seventies. In a country whose collective memory is ravaged by unhealed traumas and collective tragedies, “to whose benefit?” has become a popular question.
Meanwhile, the entire country is grieving and in shock. On the same evening of the attack, silent marches, rallies and torchlight walks have been organized in the whole nation, from Piedmont to Sicily, in order to commemorate the young victims of this attack.
Finally, the governmental authority for Privacy has officially invited the national media to abstain from diffusing personal images of the young victims, in order to protect the privacy of their lives.
- text+video [en] The Guardian
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- text [fr] Liberation
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- text [it] Il Manifesto
- text [it] Repubblica
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- text [it] Il Fatto Quotidiano
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- text [it] Valter Rizzo on Il Fatto Quotidiano