Rome, June 27 - Investigators around the world must continue working to figure out what led to a mysterious 1980 airline crash near an island off Sicily and the deaths of 81 people, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said Thursday. "The memory of that tragic night and the innocent victims of the disaster underline the duty of all institutions to support ongoing investigations to ascertain responsibility - national and international - that remained covered by disturbing shadows and opacity," Napolitano said on the 33rd anniversary of the unexplained crash off the Italian island of Ustica. The president also sent his condolences to the victims' families and praised the "constant dedication" with which they work to uncover the truth about the crash, which some suggested was caused by a rogue missile. Over the years, Italy has sought information from the United States, France, Belgium and Germany. In 2008 prosecutors reopened investigations after former Italian president Francesco Cossiga suggested that a French missile had shot down the plane by mistake. Cossiga did not explain at the time why he had waited so long before giving his views. Dossiers, books, and even a film called The Rubber Wall have been produced over the years about the mystery-shrouded night of June 27, 1980 when a domestic airliner, belonging to the now-defunct Itavia line, crashed into the sea on its way from Bologna to Palermo. Two international panels examined the wreckage. One concluded the plane had been hit by a missile, while another thought a bomb had been planted aboard the craft in a terrorist act similar to that carried out with even greater loss of life at Bologna train station later that summer. But investigating magistrate Rosario Priore and the prosecutors who have succeeded him insisted they had found clear evidence of flight tracks being tampered with and radar scans cleaned up to remove all trace of other planes in the vicinity of the Itavia jet. Magistrates and victims' relatives think the plane may have become caught in a dogfight between NATO planes and a Libyan jet whose wreckage was found in the southern Italian highlands some months after the Ustica crash. Italy has repeatedly asked NATO, and in particular the US and France, for full cooperation in clearing up the incident. According to reconstructions of the event contained in fictitious accounts, the Libyan jet hid under the Itavia jet and a NATO missile hit the wrong target. The truth may only come out when NATO records are declassified in years to come, many of the theorists say.
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di Sebastiano Caspanello