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Red Brigades claim assassination

ROME, Italy -- The infamous Red Brigades group has claimed responsibility for the murder of a leading Italian economist and government adviser.

Marco Biagi, 52, a professor and consultant to Italian Labour Minister Roberto Maroni, was gunned down by two men outside his home in Bologna on Tuesday.

Interior Minister Claudio Scajola said the killing was an attempt to break apart Italian society.

And Prime Minister Silvio Berlsuconi has vowed to press on with controversial employment laws that were promoted by Biagi.

The Red Brigades admitted responsibility for the killing in a phone call to Bologna's main newspaper Il Resto del Carlino.

CNN's Alessio Vinci reports on the reaction Wednesday to the killing of Italian economic adviser Marco Biagi (March 20)

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"We are the Red Brigades. We claim responsibility for the attack against Professor Biagi. A bulletin will follow," the caller said.

Even before the telephone admission the Red Brigades, a left-wing terrorist group that carried out a wave of bloody attacks in the 1970s, were emerging as prime suspects in the case.

Authorities also drew parallels to the 1999 Red Brigades assassination of Massimo D'Antona, who was also a senior adviser to the Labour Ministry.

The group suffered military defeat in the 1980s but has occasionally resurfaced since, the D'Antona killing being its most high profile attack.

Berlsuconi said: "Terrorism shows itself once again (to be) a topical danger that must be fought with all the necessary force."

The killing "fills all Italians with pain," he said.

Biagi was a strong proponent and one of the authors of controversial labour reforms.

The government says they are necessary to create more jobs in a flexible labour market and bring Italy into line with the rest of Europe. Unions say the reforms would make it easier to fire workers.

Berlusconi called for a resumption of negotiations with unions and employers over the labour reform plans.

"In honour of Marco Biagi, a man of dialogue, we have decided to present a formal invitation to the social partners to resume negotiations immediately," he told reporters on Wednesday.

But Italy's main labour unions have decided to proceed with a plan for a general strike in protest at the reforms next month.

A day before he was killed, Biagi wrote an editorial for leading economic daily Il Sole 24 Ore accusing the unions of being against European integration by opposing labour reform.

Scajola told a special sitting of parliament in Rome on Wednesday: "The terrorist sub-culture eliminated a life that was precious not only to his family but to the country.

"It was an attempt to spread panic and anxiety, to suffocate every peaceful debate and the free exchange of ideas, to cancel dialogue and reason and to create a deep fissure in Italian society."

The two gunmen fired four shots, two of which hit Biagi, media reported. Top anti-terrorism officers rushed to Bologna, where police scoured the area outside Biagi's home, which was splattered with blood and littered with four spent bullet cartridges.

Biagi also was a professor at the University of Modena, the president of the Italian Industrial Relations Association and an adviser to the European Commission in employment and social affairs.

Pope John Paul added his condemnation of the killing, telling pilgrims at a regular Vatican audience, that it was "barbarous" and urged unions and the government to find a peaceful solution to their differences.


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