African migrants injured in Italian drive-by shootings, say police

People gather where witnesses say a shooter was arrested in Macerata February 3, 2018 in this still image obtained from social media video. — Picture by Marcelo Mancini via Reuters
People gather where witnesses say a shooter was arrested in Macerata February 3, 2018 in this still image obtained from social media video. — Picture by Marcelo Mancini via Reuters

ROME, Feb 3 — An Italian man opened fire on African migrants in the central city of Macerata today, injuring several people, police said, in an attack that appeared to be racially motivated.

The shootings happened just days after a Nigerian migrant was arrested in connection with the death of an 18-year-old Italian woman, whose dismembered body was discovered hidden in two suitcases near Macerata.

The incident looks certain to jolt campaigning for a March 4 national election, with a centre-right alliance that leads in the polls promoting a fiercely anti-migrant programme.

Local media reported that at least six migrants were shot by a man firing out of a car window as he drove around Macerata, which is located about 200km east of Rome.

Police later said they had arrested an Italian man and published a photo of him, with an Italian flag draped over his shoulders, being taken away by armed officers.

State television Rai said he was a 28-year-old from Macerata and that a pistol had been discovered in his Alfa Romeo car.

Police said one of the injured foreigners needed surgery, but gave no further details.

Local witnesses said a man fired out of his car window at two young African migrants shortly after 11 am (1000 GMT/6pm Malaysian time), wounding one of them. A short while later there were reports of further drive-by shootings in the city.

Right-wing politicians campaigning ahead of next month’s vote had leapt on the gruesome death of the teenager Pamela Mastropietro to promote their anti-migrant message.

A preliminary postmortem on the teenager could not immediately identify her cause of death. The Nigerian suspect, who was denied asylum last year but has remained in Italy, has refused to talk to police.

“What was this worm still doing in Italy?” Matteo Salvini, head of the far-right League, wrote on Facebook, accusing the centre-left government of responsibility over Mastropietro’s death for allowing migrants to stay in the country.

“The left has blood on its hands,” he wrote.

Magistrates say witnesses saw the Nigerian suspect carrying the suitcases that were later found to contain the teenager’s body. They also found blood-stained clothes and knives in his possession.

More than 600,000 mainly African migrants have reached Italy by boat over the past four years. The centre-right bloc, which includes the League, says the vast majority have no right to asylum and has promised mass expulsions if it takes power.

Leftist parties have ruled out any such deportations.

“The news from Macerata leaves me horrified and shocked. We must stop this spiral of hate and violence,” said Pietro Grasso, who is the head of the Free and Equal party. — Reuters

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