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ROME – Italian police have detained three suspects, all immigrants, in the slaying of a teenage girl who was drugged, gang-raped and left in an abandoned building in Rome known as a drug den.
The case has drawn outrage over the degradation in parts of the Italian capital that have been taken over by gangs and drug dealers.
The suspects, two Senegalese citizens and one Nigerian, were being held on suspicion of murder, group sexual assault and distributing drugs in the death last week of 16-year-old Desiree Mariottini, Italian authorities said Thursday.
Reports that two of the subjects were in the country illegally and that a residency permit for the third had expired have fueled Italy's already-fierce debate about immigration. Some have demanded that the Italian government accelerate expulsions of immigrants who are in the country illegally, as promised by the League party during the election campaign.
Hard-line Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said a fourth suspect would be quickly apprehended.
"The worms of this horror will pay to the end, without a break, for their infamy," Salvini pledged.
Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte said "we cannot tolerate that spaces free from laws can be created within the urban environment."
Residents of the San Lorenzo neighborhood where the slaying occurred, near Rome's main Termini train station, demanded that authorities intervene to take back control of the neighborhood. Local businesses closed for one day in protest.
"The lack of control by public institutions, which should allow us to maintain order, and the failure to clean up by the city's garbage collection company, create a situation that favors the proliferation of criminal activities," said Chiara Simeoni, a member of the San Lorenzo neighborhood watch.
The brutality of the Mariottini's death drew comparisons with the murder and rape of 18-year-old Pamela Mastropietro, whose body was found last winter in pieces in a suitcase in the central Italian city of Macerata.
News that a Nigerian suspect had been arrested last February triggered an Italian man with extreme right-wing views to open fire on African residents, injuring six. The shooting spree affected Italy's national election, which was won by two populist parties, the 5-Star Movement and the League.
Newspaper reports indicated Mariottini had told her family that she had missed the bus to her town outside of Rome and she would stay at a friend's house the night she disappeared. A lawyer for the family denied reports that she had a drug problem.
"She was a normal 16-year-old girl," the family's lawyer, Valerio Masci, told RAI state TV. "A very naive girl. Maybe recently she could be a little exuberant, but to speak of serious drug problems, frankly, I don't think so."
Masci did say the family had seen some changes in Mariottini in the last month, noting she "was much more nervous, a little more introverted."