An Italian gunman with extreme right-wing sympathies shot and wounded six African immigrants Saturday in a two-hour drive-by shooting rampage, authorities said, terrorizing a small Italian city where a Nigerian man had been arrested days earlier in a teenager’s gruesome killing.
Police photos showed the shooting suspect with a neo-Nazi tattoo prominently on his forehead as he sat in custody and an Italian flag tied around his neck as he was arrested in the central Italian city of Macerata. Authorities identified him as Luca Traini, a 28-year-old Italian who had run for town council on the anti-migrant Northern League ticket in a local election last year in Corridonia.
Premier Paolo Gentiloni warned that “the state will be particularly severe against whoever thinks of feeding the spiral of violence.”
A video posted by the newspaper Il Resto di Carlino showed a man with an Italian flag draped over his shoulders being arrested by armed Carabinieri officers in the city center after reportedly fleeing his car on foot. Italian news reports said the man performed a fascist salute as he was arrested, but no salute was visible in the video.
The shootings came days after the slaying of 18-year-old Pamela Mastropietro and amid a heated electoral campaign in Italy where anti-foreigner sentiment has become a key theme as Italy continues to struggle with the migrant arrivals.
The head of the rebranded League, Matteo Salvini, has capitalized on the killing in campaign appearances, and is pledging to deport 150,000 migrants in his first year in office if his party wins control of Parliament and he is named premier.
Macerata Mayor Romano Carancini confirmed that six foreigners, all black, were wounded in the string of shootings, one with life-threatening injuries.
“They were all of color, this is obviously a grave fact. As was grave what happened to Pamela. The closeness of the two events makes you imagine there could be a connection,” he said.
The teen’s dismembered remains were found Wednesday in two suitcases two days after she walked away from a drug rehab community. A judge on Saturday confirmed the arrest of the main suspect, identified as 29-year-old Innocent Oseghale.
The Italian news agency ANSA reported that the black car used in Saturday’s shootings had been seen in the area where the woman’s body was found and also near where the suspect lived. A video posted by Il Resto di Carlino showed what appeared to be a body on the ground on a shopping street.
Police had warned residents to stay inside while the shooter was loose. Authorities halted public transport and said students must be kept inside schools, which are open on Saturdays.
Italians vote in a general election on March 4 to elect a new government.
Salvini’s League, which dropped the “Northern” from its name in a bid for a national following, has joined a center-right coalition with Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and Giorgia Meloni’s much smaller Brothers of Italy. They are running against Matteo Renzi’s much-splintered Democratic Party and the populist 5-Star Movement.
4:50 p.m.: This article was updated with comment from Premier Paolo Gentiloni.
9:15 a.m.: This article was updated with police identification of the gunman, his possible motive, including his targeting African immigrants, and more details.
5:40 a.m.: This article was updated with the suspect’s age.
5:15 a.m.: This article was updated with six wounded.
This article was originally published at 4:15 a.m.