Macerata: How a Teen Murder and Anti-immigration Calls Sparked Racist Shooting Spree in Italy

Macerata shooting
Luca Traini, a 28-year-old Italian man, was arrested hours after he went on a drive-by shooting rampage in the central city on February 3. Polizia di Stato/Facebook

The suspect behind a two-hour shooting spree in the Italian city of Macerata has shown no remorse for injuring six African migrants, Italian police said. Officials added the racially motivated crime is thought to have been sparked by the murder of an Italian woman earlier this year.

Luca Traini, a 28-year-old Italian male, was arrested hours after he went on a drive-by rampage in the Marchigiano city on February 3.

Police and authorities said the man drove by the city and shot whenever he saw "any black people".

The suspect was found with an Italian flag draped over his shoulders. He reportedly shouted "long live Italy" as he was being taken away.

Police also seized a gun, a copy of Hitler's Mein Kampf and a banner with a Celtic cross, a symbol long associated with white nationalism.

Macerata mayor Romano Carancini later confirmed that six foreign nationals, all of them black, had been wounded in the shooting spree. One of them had life-threatening injuries and had undergone surgery. The victims, all under 35, were from Ghana, The Gambia, Nigeria and Mali, according to local media.

Traini, who stood as a candidate for the right-wing nationalist party Northern League, also shot at the office of the ruling center-left Democratic Party (PD), but did not injure anyone.

Macerata shooting
A Glock handgun sits on the seat of a black Alfa Romeo used by a man suspected of wounding several foreign nationals in a drive-by shooting,is blocked by police and Carabibieri enforcement at Macerata, on February 3, 2018 Italian police said they have arrested a man suspected of opening fire on foreigners from a vehicle in central Italy on February 3, 2018. Media reported six people were injured, four of them seriously, in the incident in the town of Macerata. STR/AFP/Getty Images

Murder of teenage girl

Shortly after the incident, speculation emerged that the violence could have been sparked by the killing and dismemberment of 18-year-old Italian Pamela Mastropietro, allegedly by a Nigerian immigrant.

Mastropietro had fled from a drug rehabilitation center when she met 29-year-old Innocent Oseghale, an asylum seeker who reportedly continued to live in Macerata despite his request for asylum being denied.

Tensions have run high in the city since Mastropietro's body was found in two suitcases earlier in February.

But the victim's mother rejected allegations Saturday's violence was linked to the death of her daughter.

"We are calling for justice. For exemplary punishments for those who killed and butchered our daughter," she was quoted by Italian media as saying.

"We firmly condemn the attack, we are not racist and if Pamela was still alive, she would be horrified by all this hate.

"We condemn this act," she continued. "The suspect behind our daughter's murder is behind bars, we want him to pay for what he did: killing our little one and destroying our lives. But we don't want other blood on our streets and we are not looking for this type of vendetta. We are good people."

Anti-migration sentiments

Some have accused politicians of exploiting Mastropietro's murder to spread an anti-immigration agenda in the lead-up to March's general elections.

Northern League leader Matteo Salvini has been accused of "morally arming" Traini with the anti-immigration sentiments that prompted him to launch his attack, news agency Ansa reported.

"What was this worm still doing in Italy?" Salvini wrote on Facebook referring to Oseghal. Salvini also accused the center-left government of being responsible for Mastropietro's death.

He said on Facebook following the shooting: "Violence is never the solution. Violence should always be condemned. And those who make a mistake need to pay.

"Uncontrolled migration brings chaos, rage and social clashes. Uncontrolled migration brings drug smuggling, rape, thefts and violence."

Media magnate and center-right leader Silvio Berlusconi, who has served as Italy's Prime Minister four times, condemned the Macerata shooting, but reiterated his commitment to expel 600,000 migrants.

"Italians are not racists, we are hospitable," he said.

"There is not a general climate of hatred but some people who are out of their heads, like the gentleman in Macerata, who wallow in this atmosphere."

However, he then added: "600,000 migrants are a social bomb that risks exploding."

At least 600,000 migrants have reached Italy since 2014.

"In 2010 only 4,400 illegal immigrants arrived, the same as one weekend last year," Berlusconi went on.

"Because of the center-left governments we now have 630,000 illegals, with a vertical drop in security".

Last February, the UN-backed government in Libya—the main getaway for people who try to reach Europe—and Italy reached an agreement to curb the number of people crossing the Mediterranean and combat people smuggling. As per the accord, Italy and the EU committed to providing funds and training to the Libyan Coast Guard to stop boats reaching Italian shores.

Rights group Amnesty International has accused Italy and other European countries of being complicit in abuses against migrants in Libya.