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Italy: Extreme right man shoots at ’foreigners’

Saturday 3 February 2018, by siawi3

Source: The Washington Post, February 3, 2018

Europe
Suspect shoots, wounds at least six ‘people of color’ in Italian city amid tensions

Photo: The black Alfa Romeo of a young man suspected of wounding several people in a drive-by shooting in Macerata on Feb. 3, 2018. (Giuseppe BelliniGIUSEPPE BELLINI/AFP/Getty Images) (Giuseppe Bellini/AFP/Getty Images)

By Stefano Pitrelli and Michael Birnbaum

February 3 2018 at 11:44 AM

ROME — A man wearing Italy’s tricolor flag wounded at least six “people of color” in a drive-by shooting in a central Italian city on Saturday before being detained, authorities said. The suspect had been a candidate for the anti-immigrant Northern League party in municipal elections last year, according to a party spokeswoman.

The suspect’s motive in the shootings in Macerata was not known, but a young Italian woman was gruesomely murdered in the city this past week, allegedly by a Nigerian immigrant, prompting a wave of anger in a nation where many were already seeking to reduce the entry of migrants.

The attack’s connection to the Northern League was likely to unsettle Italy as it approaches national elections on March 4. Far-right groups have been gaining in the polls, and the Northern League looks as though it may have a chance to govern as a junior member of a coalition with other right-wing parties.

A police spokesman said that 28-year-old Luca Traini was detained near Macerata’s central war memorial early Saturday afternoon. A handgun was in the suspect’s car, and the green-white-and-red flag of Italy was tied around his shoulders, the official said. Traini admitted his guilt as he was arrested, added the spokesman, who declined to be publicly identified under ground rules set by the force.

Local news outlets said that the man was detained after he stepped out of his black Alfa Romeo 147 near the town’s Monument to the Fallen, gave a fascist salute, and shouted “Italy for the Italians.” It was not clear whether the victims were Italian citizens.

Large numbers of migrants began sailing across the Mediterranean toward Italy after Libya plunged into lawlessness and civil war following the 2011 downfall of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi. More than 620,000 migrants, many of them African, have arrived in Italy since the beginning of 2014, contributing to a growing sense among Italians that the country was taking in far more people than it could handle.

[In once-welcoming Italy, the tide turns against migrants]

Anti-immigrant sentiment has become a main theme in the campaign leading up to next month’s elections.

Northern League leader Matteo Salvini has vowed to expel 150,000 immigrants from Italy and close the country’s borders to most new arrivals.

The murder in Macerata this past week of 18-year-old Pamela Mastropietro drew national attention to the city of 43,000 and intensified added fuel to the debate on migration. Mastropietro checked out of a rehab center on Monday. On Wednesday, her dismembered remains were found packed into two suitcases. A 29-year-old Nigerian man, Innocent Oseghale, was charged with her murder.

“What was this maggot still doing in Italy? He wasn’t fleeing war, he brought war to Italy,” Salvini wrote on Facebook on Thursday. “The left’s hands are bloodstained. Expulsions, expulsions and more expulsions!”

[This African migrant dreamed of reaching Europe. A phone call changed everything.]

The suspect in Saturday’s shooting ran as a Northern League candidate last June for a seat on the municipal council of Corridonia, a town of 15,000 people just south of Macerata, according to a Northern League spokeswoman who spoke on condition that her name not be used. During the campaign, Salvini visited Corridonia and met with local candidates, although it was not immediately clear whether the suspected shooter was present.

The spokeswoman said that the party was conferring about how to respond to the news.

Asked about the shootings at a news conference earlier Saturday, before it became clear that a former Northern League candidate was the suspect, Salvini said that “whoever shoots is a criminal, no matter the skin color,” adding that “uncontrolled” migration leads to clashes, according to Italy’s ANSA news agency.

Salvini’s opponents seized on the killing as evidence that the right-wing party’s rhetoric was stirring violence and division within Italian society.

“What happened today in Macerata demonstrates that inciting hatred and excusing fascism, as Salvini does, has consequences,” said Laura Boldrini, the president of the lower house of Italian parliament and a member of the left-wing Free and Equal alliance of parties.

The mayor of Corridonia said in an interview that the Northern League candidates did not use violent rhetoric during their campaign last year, even as they pushed the tough-on-immigration message of the national party.

“The issues were the same as those debated at the national level,” such as public safety, said Mayor Paolo Cartechini, who is a member of Italy’s ruling center-left Democratic Party.

Cartechini said that about 8 or 9 percent of Corridonia’s residents were immigrants, and that the largest group among them was Pakistani.

“There have never been great worries regarding public safety,” he said. “Now and then there are some hotheads that are trying to inflame the situation.”

Birnbaum reported from Brussels