MACERATA, ITALY - A far-right supporter suspected of wounding six Africans in a shooting spree in central Italy said the “trigger” for his attacks was the murder of an Italian woman, allegedly by a Nigerian asylum seeker, according to media reports Sunday.
Luca Traini was arrested and taken into custody after drive-by attacks in the town of Macerata wounded five men and one woman, from Ghana, Mali and Nigeria, on Saturday.
It came a day after a Nigerian asylum-seeker and drug dealer was arrested in the same town for the murder of an 18-year-old woman, whose dismembered body was discovered in suitcases.
“I was driving to the gym when I heard on the radio about the 18-year-old girl,” the daily newspaper Corriere della Sera quoted him as telling investigators.
“Instinctively I turned around, I went home, I opened the safe and took the pistol and decided to kill them all.”
After the shootings, Traini, 28, allegedly got out of his car, made a fascist salute with a tricolor Italian flag draped over his shoulders and shouted “Viva Italia,” or “Long Live Italy,” and “Italy for Italians,” media reports said.
Police who raided his mother’s home found far-right literature, including a copy of Adolf Hitler’s manifesto “Mein Kampf” and a book by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
Interior Minister Marco Minniti said the attack was part of a culture “of right-wing extremism with clear reference to fascism and Nazism” and deplored that the sole link between the victims was “the color of their skin.
He said the “criminal act” was prompted by “racial hatred” and had been prepared in advance.
The man allegedly opened fire in eight areas in the town and also targeted the office of the center-left Democratic Party in a two-hour terror frenzy in the sleepy town of 43,000 people, press reports said.
One victim was seriously injured in the thorax, the reports said. The other five had lesser injuries.
A Nigerian man who was shot in the thigh while buying cigarettes on the street, telling a television channel from his hospital bed that he was in great pain, adding: “It’s very serious.”
Traini is a member of the far-right anti-immigration Northern League party and had run in local elections last year.
Media reports said police found a gun in the man’s vehicle, a black Alfa Romeo.
“Someone who shoots is a delinquent, irrespective of the color of his skin,” said Northern league chief Matteo Salvini, ahead of legislative elections on March 4.
“I’m in a hurry to be in government to bring back security, social justice and serenity to Italy,” he said.
Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni meanwhile made a pitch for unity after Saturday’s incident, saying: “Hate and violence will not divide us.”
Italians head to the polls in national elections next month, with immigration shaping up to be a key issue.
The country is a favored landing point on Europe’s southern coastline for migrants making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean, often aboard unseaworthy boats, to enter the continent.
But 2017 was a turning point for Italy: the country went from large-scale arrivals in the first six months to a sharp drop-off, thanks to controversial agreement between the EU and Libya.
Some 119,000 people landed in Italy last year, down 35 percent on 2016.
The Northern League is part of a populist coalition tipped to do well in the elections.
According to opinion polls, the alliance between ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right Forza Italia (Go Italy), the post-fascist Fratelli d’Italia (Italian Brothers) and the Northern League leads with more than 35 percent ahead of the March 4 vote.