Meet the Nihilist-Anarchist Network Bringing Chaos to a Town Near You

By Jake Hanrahan

On May 7th, 2012, two masked gunmen crept up on the CEO of nuclear engineering firm Ansaldo Nucleare outside his home in Italy. As their target—56-year-old Roberto Adinolfi—emerged from his house, the gunmen fired three shots at him. One shattered Adinolfi’s right kneecap. The attackers weren't petty extortionists or Mafia guns for hire, as was initially assumed, but members of what is considered to be a highly organized and shadowy left-wing terrorist organisation named Federazione Anarchica Informale—shortened to the FAI, or the Informal Anarchist Federation in English.

After the FAI had claimed the attack on Adinolfi, the mainstream press effectively attributed it to a bunch of trigger-happy Italian anarchists who were trying to imitate the Red Brigades—the Leninist-Marxist Brigate Rosse whose paramilitaries caused havoc in Italy throughout the 70s and 80s. In reality, the FAI actually holds no Marxist beliefs at all and have stated to me via an anonymous source that they have no affiliation with the Red Brigades whatsoever.

My source has taken many precautions and will only communicate with me via methods that are virtually untraceable, secretly handing me reams of FAI literature to sift through for research. The group's members are people who international security agents would very much like to sit down and talk to. Clearly they're anxious about police infiltration and take every precaution they can to protect the identities of their "comrades."

As demonstrated by Adinolfi's kneecapping (carried out because of his company’s affiliation with Italian defense conglomerate Finmeccanica, currently being investigated on corruption charges), the FAI’s MO is to carry out violent resistance against what they call the “European Fortress”—an FAI term for the unjust and oppressive forces they feel are running the continent.

Instead of peacefully handing out leaflets, they mask up and employ the full force of "direct action," proven by their many attacks like the bombing of private banks in Rome, the torching of surveillance towers in Russia, and the destruction of rail lines in the UK. They’ve also tried to send letter bombs to MEPs, which were either intercepted or didn’t explode (something the FAI says was an intentional scare tactic).


Forensics officers studying the Adinolfi crime scene.

As an informal organization without leaders, hierarchies, or figureheads, it can sometimes be hard to distinguish exactly what it is the FAI is fighting against. But through the hundreds of pages of FAI manifestos, memorandums, communiqués, and a meeting transcript I’ve read through, it seems obvious that their main objective is to destroy any form of “state” or leadership throughout Europe.

They claim to fight alongside the impoverished who are downtrodden in their own lands by unfair foreign-trade deals, for a "true personal freedom where the individual can decide their own fate without having to be governed by anyone." They state that the “total destruction of market and hierarchy” would help accomplish this. It could, of course, also cause widespread famine and allow bloodthirsty, psychopathic criminals to run amok—we've all seen the Batman fillms—but the sentiment seems to only deal directly with the idea of the revolution itself, and not its aftermath.

According to them, the FAI isn't out to make friends or help fix society. Instead, they claim to "fight continuously to remove the status quo and to implement a completely new and free society." The FAI feels that the only way for such ideals to exist is to have a world with no government and no authority of any kind. However, no solidarity is shown for those already being oppressed if they’re not prepared for violent combat against their enemies, because this is apparently just adding to the oppression the FAI aim to destroy.

In essence, the FAI is a nihilist-anarchist organization. The members aren't out to represent you or to protect anybody from the ruthless grip of inequality. They are not Hugo Chavez or Vladimir Lenin—they don’t care if your plight isn’t represented if you're just standing by with your hands in your pockets. But, if you're fighting like they are—if you're reaching into those pockets of yours and pulling out a letter bomb or a pistol, for example—then they’re most definitely with you. Especially if you're taking aim at the "European Fortress."


The aftermath of the FAI's Chile bank bomb.

The FAI's history runs back to the 90s and they're responsible for thousands of violent attacks, from blowing up banks in Chile to burning out cars belonging to Tory MPs and the Lord Mayor of Bristol. After sifting through the materials handed to me by the FAI, I still have no idea why they targeted the Lord Mayor of Bristol. And neither, judging by his quotes in this local news report, does he, but it seems his Toyota Prius and his wife's Ford Fiesta were deemed to be part of the European Fortress and so they had to die in the nihilists' fire.

Although officially founded as a movement in 2003, the FAI’s first recognized attack was in 1999, when they sent explosive devices to the Greek embassy, to an office of tourism in Madrid, and to a branch of Citibank in Barcelona. They sent the explosives in the mail to show solidarity with a man named Nikos Maziotis, now infamous for his statement to the Athens Criminal Court, after he was arrested for putting a bomb in the Ministry of Industry and Development in Greece on December 12th, 1997.

After the 1999 mail bombs, FAI cells sent a torrent of incendiary explosive devices to organizations and journalists such as La Razón newspaper in Madrid, the church of Sant'Ambrogio, the court of Valencia, the Madrid Cathedral, and the Carabinieri (the national military police of Italy) in Genoa, which detonated and wounded one of the policemen. They've also sent out “parcels of dog shit” to two of their targets.

These incendiary attacks were a further fight against prisons, more specifically the FIES isolation units. These units go mostly unreported in the media, which is probably because they're brutal isolation blocks within Spanish prisons where unruly inmates are sent for months and years on end. They have come to be the prison authority’s favored holding pen for anarchists and social prisoners, many of whom have reported extreme acts of daily, brutal torture at the hands of their guards.

The grim isolation blocks act as jails within jails, operating under the radar of the EU’s Human Rights Charter that Spain is supposed to adhere to. One anarchist by the name of Gabriel Pombo Da Silva (imprisoned for having a shootout with border officials in Germany) managed to escape from a FIES unit in February 2004, before writing a letter detailing his suffering there. Just four months later, his anarchist comrade Jose Antonio Cano killed himself at one of the isolation blocks in Barcelona after being imprisoned and reportedly tortured there for 12 years.

The attacks against FIES units following the 1999 parcel bombs are just a handful of the FAI’s successful missions. Due to the group's decentralized nature and total lack of leadership or hierarchy, the FAI are collecting a large number of associated cells that extend their reach across the planet. Acts carried out by the FAI's international comrades include the burning down of a school in Indonesia (because "school is a prison"), the (unplanned) shooting of two police officers in Greece, and the arson of a transmitter site near Bath in the UK just last month. The latter left 80,000 homes without TV and radio and caused hundreds of thousands of pounds' worth of damage.

"The entertainment industry is an important tool to manipulate human behavior," read the statement the culprits posted online to claim responsibility for the torching at Bath. "Without a steady supply of distractions it would be much harder to persuade people that their lives are satisfactory."

They dedicated the attack to a fellow anarchist named Xosé Tarrío González, who died in a FIES isolation unit in Coruna in 2005.


CCF members Gerasimos Tsakalos and Panagiotis Argirou.

The benefits of having this sprawling, extended family of anarchist cells is that prospective members don’t need to meet or form a bond with anyone in the FAI to join the struggle. Because of that exact makeup, the FAI claim to have never been successfully infiltrated by undercover police agents.

Most notable of the FAI associates is the Greece-based Conspiracy of Cells of Fire (CCF), who effectively joined forces with the FAI in 2011 after a trial involving some of their members. As the FAI had done before them, the CCF launched their first wave of attacks on January 21st, 2008 to show unity with imprisoned anarchists. Members of the CCF detonated gas-canister bombs across the cities of Athens and Thessaloniki. Luxury-car dealerships had their expensive showrooms blown to bits and banks were completely gutted.

The CCF decided not to duck for cover after this first wave of destruction, instead proceeding to detonate bombs outside of police stations in the midst of the Greek riots, set fire to the top floors of the Rabobank building in Utrecht, bomb the Athens law court, bomb the homes of anti-immigration politicans and blow up the HQ of neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn. They even sent explosives in the post to Angela Merkel, Silvio Berlusconi and other European heads of state, but they were intercepted, a lapse in execution you can probably forgive the CCF; they've been pretty busy.


The fire at the Rabobank building in Utrecht.

In one of the documents I've read, the CCF speak the same message as the FAI from the very beginning: "The guerrilla has finally escaped the pages of books dealing with decades past and taken to the streets with ferocity," they say. "Because the urban guerrilla doesn’t offer utopian freedom. She allows access to immediate freedom."

After the collaboration, the FAI/CCF became stronger, more than tripling in size and becoming increasingly recognised for their violent resistance across Europe and much of the world. But despite the size of the groups and the numerous attacks being launched in countries internationally, the FAI still aren't recognized by America. The US has a Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) designation system. In its own words, “FTO designations play a critical role in our fight against terrorism and are an effective means of curtailing support for terrorist activities.”

The fact that the FAI aren't yet on the list might be due to the fact that—unlike other terrorist organizations on the FTO system—they've yet to murder any civilians or innocent bystanders. Mail handlers having their hands burned by explosives and office workers being cut by flying glass in the crossfire of bomb attacks are of course deeply unsettling events, but evidence suggests that no civilian has ever actually been killed as a direct result of an FAI cell's attack.

Not that all FAI members are averse to the possibility of human “collateral damage.” In an FAI meeting transcript from 2006, a conversation is had between members about the accidental wounding of civilians.

“Why on earth do they [nonviolent anarchists] care about the safety of a postman or a secretary every time a parcel bomb is sent?” says somebody named as Archimede Pitagorico. “We need to show that we're serious, that we don’t hide behind tortuous reasoning and that we don’t have any problem to attack even at risk of life!”

Another member, named Paperina, says: “What a fucking rhetoric!”

“Let me finish,” says Pitagorico. “The problem is that we have too many scruples and that we never go further. We need to be more audacious with explosives and we don’t have to think that we can't hurt a secretary if the target is her boss.”

“It’s a matter of means,” says another member named Quo. “We have to be more selective: guns instead of explosives.”

The meeting goes on to talk about how FAI members have been extremely careful not to harm civilians, and that they’ve even “saved the guilty” by being cautious of the innocent.

With any group as large and geographically dispersed as the FAI, conflicting interests and contradictions are going to crop up every so often. The media have often focused on these inconsistencies more than they have the bigger parts of the puzzle—the mass bombings and gunshots at dawn, not to mention what the evidence points to: there are a growing number of people out there who feel oppressed to the point of taking up arms.


CCF graffiti.

It might be impossible to ever fully understand or report on the FAI with complete and total accuracy, due to the group's nature. They even say themselves that, “Any piece of writing, analysis, or critique that comes out of the FAI will never be a definitive one. Our informal federation is in constant evolution.”

The FAI is essentially the movement that many of these intermingling leftist-insurrectional anarchist cells operate under—they are to CCF, IRF, and the Earth Liberation Front what the PLO was to Al Fatah, PFLP, and PDFLP in the 70s. A quote from FAI members that neatly wraps up the message, struggle, and formation of the FAI: “We are one single thing without knowing one another. In our diversities, we are the hand that will break the chains.”


A cross being chopped down in Russia.

Although you might not have heard about it yet, the FAI has been busy rattling said chains already this year, at least four successful attacks taking place in January alone. These include the firebombing of a bank in Russia, arson attacks on the home of a senior political figure in Indonesia, and the felling of some gigantic wooden religious crosses in Moscow.

In turn, the Italian authorities have stepped up their battle against the FAI, launching an antianarchist effort named Operation Ardire. Ardire charges the Italian police with raiding the houses of suspected anarchists, pulling them out of their beds and throwing them into jail. Bloggers simply showing their approval of an FAI attack have been targeted and locked up, according to the FAI, with some prisoners refused basic rights such as phone calls and visitors.

So don’t be fooled by the mainstream radio silence—the FAI is not some part-time group of activist students getting rowdy on the weekend, but an underground network of committed, established and violent anarchists. If you look at the UK government's current quest to slash benefits while it allows globe-straddling businesses to swerve millions of pounds' worth of corporate taxes, you can see why young people both in the UK and abroad are joining forces with the FAI to take action.

Follow Jake on Twitter: @OiJake

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