MILAN – A lone Italian gunman wounded six African immigrants in a two-hour drive-by shooting spree Saturday in a small Italian city where just days earlier a Nigerian man was arrested in the gruesome killing of a teenager, officials said.
The shooting suspect was identified as Luca Traini, a 28-year-old Italian with no previous record. Traini had run on a list for the anti-migrant Northern League party in a local election last year in the town of Corridonia, but the party lost. The news agency ANSA quoted friends as saying he had previously been affiliated with Italian extremist parties like the neo-fascist Forza Nuova and CasaPound.
A video posted by the newspaper il Resto di Carlino showed the suspect with an Italian flag draped over his shoulders being arrested by armed Carabinieri officers in the city center, near where he apparently fled his car on foot. Italian news reports said a gun was found inside the car and that the suspect did a Fascist salute as he was arrested, but no salute was visible in the video.
The shooting spree 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 struggles with a wave of the migrant arrivals.
Macerata Mayor Romano Carancini confirmed that six foreigners, all black, were wounded in the shooting spree, 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," Carancini said.
Mastropietro'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 shooting spree had been seen in the area where the woman's body was found and also near where the suspect lived. While the shooter was still active, police told residents to stay inside and ordered public transport halted.
The head of the rebranded League, Matteo Salvini, had capitalized on the teen's killing in campaign appearances for Italy's March 4 general election even before the shooting on Saturday. He 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.
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.
Salvini told reporters at a campaign stop in Bologna on Saturday that he would bring security to Italy if elected.
"Whoever shoots is a delinquent, no matter the skin color. It is clear that out-of-control immigration ... brings social conflict," he said.
Senate president Pietro Grasso, who is fielding a small liberal party called "Free and Equal," chastised Salvini for using a tragedy for electoral gain.
"Whoever, like Salvini, exploits news events and tragedies for electoral purposes is among those responsible for the spiral of hatred and violence that we must stop as soon as possible," Grasso said.