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Italian adviser 'had death threat'

A private funeral service was held for Biagi in his home town of Bologna
A private funeral service was held for Biagi in his home town of Bologna  

BOLOGNA, Italy -- The Italian government adviser murdered this week by a guerilla group had death threats and "knew there was a price on his head," his priest has said.

The threats to Marco Biagi were revealed on Friday as senior politicians joined his family and 200 other mourners for a private funeral service.

Biagi's friends and family have expressed anger that his police escort was dropped late last year and not restored when he subsequently received a series of telephone threats.

"He was afraid. He said there was a price on his head and that's why he went to confession often," Biagi's priest, Agusto Tollon, said.

He said Biagi, a university professor who worked as a consultant for Labour Minister Roberto Maroni, had given a sealed document to a lawyer containing details of the threats.

Italians shocked by Biagi's killing. CNN's Alessio Vinci reports (March 20)

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Biagi, 52, was shot dead on Tuesday outside his home in Bologna by two men on a motorbike. The Red Brigades, a far-left terror group, has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Interior Minister Claudio Scajola said the 9mm pistol used in the attack was the same as that used in the assassination of another Labour Ministry adviser, Masssimo D'Antona, in 1999.

Italy's President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, senior politicians and union leaders attended Friday's private service in Bologna after his widow, Marina, reportedly rejected offers of a full state funeral.

"We are all offended and humiliated," Bologna Cardinal Giacomo Biffi told mourners.

He said the murder had been an act of "stupid and incomprehensible rage" and described the killers as "ideologically retarded."

Also among the mourners was European Commission President Romano Prodi, a personal friend of Biagi.

Prodi, a former Italian prime minister, told the Italian press he used to go for bicycle rides with Biagi.

"I want to pay homage to my friend and see the family," he said.

"I am overwhelmed by personal memories and by thoughts about the future."

He said Biagi "worked all his life for dialogue between different parts of society. He never forgot that development and social justice, efficiency and solidarity, must go hand-in-hand."

Biagi was "executed" because of his labour reforms  

Pope John Paul has condemned the killing, telling pilgrims at a regular Vatican audience it was "barbarous."

And on Wednesday, thousands of demonstrators held a candle light vigil in Rome calling for an end to terrorism.

Scajola has launched an internal investigation into the decision to withdraw the bodyguards.

"We cannot escort everyone, and I don't believe that bodyguards can guarantee safety in the face of barbarous decisions by the Red Brigades to kill," he said.

In a message posted on the Internet on Thursday, the Red Brigades group said Biagi had been "executed" for his role in drafting controversial labour reforms that will make it easier to hire and fire certain categories of workers.

The original Red Brigades were responsible for a series of murders two decades ago.

Their most notorious act was the 1978 kidnapping and killing of former Italian prime minister Aldo Moro.


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