Discuss as:

Attack on Italian nuke chief raises fears of anarchist violence

Luca Zennaro / EPA

Italian military police investigate the site where Roberto Adinolfi, the chief executive of a state-controlled nuclear company, was shot in Genoa, Italy, on Monday.

MILAN - The head of a nuclear power company was shot in the leg by an unidentified gunman in Italy on Monday, police said, in an incident reminiscent of politically motivated violence that raged in the country in the 1970s and 1980s.

Roberto Adinolfi, chief executive of Ansaldo Nucleare, a company linked to Italian defence conglomerate Finmeccanica, was shot in the street outside his house in Genoa in northern Italy, police said.

Shooting people in the legs was a trademark practice by the Red Brigades, a left-wing guerrilla group that carried out a campaign of murder and kidnapping aimed at destabilizing Italy in the 1970s and 1980s.

An investigative source told Reuters two people on a motorbike wearing helmets had fired three shots, hitting him in the leg. The bullet fractured his right knee but he was not in serious condition, the source said.

The investigative source said magistrates were considering whether anarchists might have been responsible for the attack.

The anarchist movement has a strong presence in the city and, according to Italian news agency Ansa, police were looking at recent pronouncements by some anarchist groups calling for "a shift to a new phase that could lead to armed action," BBC News reported.

Politicians from all sides were quick to condemn Adinolfi's shooting, some of them blaming a spreading "climate of hatred" in the recession-hit country.

"We hope investigators can find as quickly as possible those responsible for an act that brings us back to a very sad chapter of Italian history," said Lorenzo Cesa of the centrist UDC party.

Finmeccanica controls Ansaldo Energia, the parent of Ansaldo Nucleare. The Genoa attack would be "extremely serious" if it was linked to political and social frictions, said the chief financial officer of Finmeccanica, Alessandro Pansa.

Austerity measures by the government of Prime Minister Mario Monti to control Italy's huge public debt have caused mounting resentment, although protests have generally been peaceful and there have been no real signs of organised political violence.

A string of suicides, notably among businessmen suffering financial problems, has however underlined the human cost of the crisis. Last week, a 54-year-old man took a hostage in the offices of tax agency Equitalia in an act of desperation although the incident ended without violence.   

Reuters contributed to this report. 

More world news from msnbc.com and NBC News:

Follow us on Twitter: @msnbc_world