Hooded gangs, some wearing bandanas emblazoned with swastikas, smashed shop windows with iron bars and baseball bats and beat up shopkeepers in a hitherto bohemian neighborhood of Rome.

Members of the gangs shouted "Get out, bastard foreigners" as they attacked Bengali shopkeepers in the explosion of xenophobic violence.

Gianni Alemanno, the capital's new right-wing mayor, condemned the attacks, which took place in the eastern suburb of Pigneto, an area with a reputation for tolerance, on Saturday night.

Local residents also condemned the violence, saying that it must have been perpetrated by outsiders.

One shopkeeper, however, said he had recognized one of the youths, who earlier had accused him of harboring a fellow Asian who had allegedly stolen a purse.

Opponents blamed the new center-right government for allowing what they described as a climate of xenophobia to flourish across the country.

• Click here to read more from the Times of London.