An Italian man suspected of shooting six African immigrants is a far-right extremist who carried out his attack to "avenge" a local teen's murder, Italian media reported Monday.
Luca Traini, 28, faces multiple charges of attempted murder with the aggravating circumstance of racial hatred over Saturday night’s shootings in the town of Macerata in central Italy.
Five men and a woman – all immigrants from African countries, including Nigeria, Ghana, the Gambia and Mali – were wounded as the gunman went on a two-hour shooting spree in his car.
The rampage ended when Traini got out of his black Alfa Romeo near the town’s war memorial with an Italian flag draped over his shoulders. He climbed the stairs of the monument and gave a fascist salute, yelling “Viva Italia” and “Italy for Italians,” according to the ANSA news agency. Traini then surrendered to military police officers at the scene.
The shootings, which Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti described as an “evident display of racial hatred,” has sent shockwaves through Italian society and shone a spotlight on tensions over immigration in a country that is on the frontline of Europe’s migrant crisis.
Officials say Traini has a record of far-right extremism. He unsuccessfully ran as a candidate for the far-right, anti-immigrant Northern League in local elections last year, was previously linked to the neofascist Forza Nuova party, and has a fascist symbol tattooed on his temple. Police who searched his home found a copy of "Mein Kampf" and a book by Benito Mussolini, as well as a Celtic cross flag popular with white supremacists.
Italian media reported Monday that Traini had told investigators he had been motivated by the recent murder of a teen in Macerata.
The dismembered body of 18-year-old Pamela Mastropietro was found dumped in two suitcases near Macerata last week. The arrest of Nigerian national Innocent Oseghale for the murder has fanned anti-migrant sentiment in the town, where foreigners account for just over nine percent of the city’s 43,000 residents. Calls for revenge attacks were posted on the victim’s mother’s Facebook page in the days before Traini’s rampage.
“I was driving to the gym when I heard on the radio about the 18-year-old girl,” Traini told investigators, according to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
"Instinctively I turned around, I went home, I opened the safe and took the pistol and decided to kill them all."
Col. Michele Roberti, the carabineri commander in Macerata, told local media that Traini had no remorse for the shootings. “It’s likely that he carried out this crazy gesture as a sort of retaliation, a sort of vendetta,” he said. Traini and Mastropietro were not known to each other, Roberti said.
The shootings have further inflamed debate over immigration, which was already a major campaign issue ahead of a general election on March 4. Right-wing populist politicians have been looking to capitalize on public unease over the arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants in smugglers’ boats in recent years.
Former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi said Sunday that immigration was a "social bomb ready to explode in Italy," while his ally Matteo Salvini, head of the Northern League, condemned the shooting spree while asserting that migrants were at the root of a "social clash." The Northern League has campaigned heavily on Mastropietro’s murder and is pledging to deport 150,000 migrants if it wins control of parliament.
This article originally appeared on VICE News US.