Shooting of black migrants escalates racial tensions, ahead of Italy elections

The suspect said he shot randomly at migrants in the streets of a small city.

— -- The drive-by shooting that targeted black migrants in Italy recently has heightened tensions in heated political campaigns, ahead of Italy’s national elections.

The political mood in Italy continues to be flammable as March 4 elections approach, with right-wing politicians increasing anti-migrant slogans. Economic hardships, poverty and unemployment have been growing in Italy and some in the country have blamed migrants for the situation.

This afternoon, Luca Traini, 28, a known right-wing extremist was ordered to remain in custoday for the suspected of shooting at least eight black migrants, on Saturday, in the streets of the provincial city of Macerata, in central Italy.

Traini was wearing an Italian flag wrapped around his neck and reportedly made a fascist salute when he was arrested near the city's war memorial. Investigators later found a copy of Mein Kampf, as well as far-right-wing paraphernalia at his home.

Traini is being held on multiple charges for attempted murder aggravated by racial hatred. He is being held in isolation and kept under surveillance in the Ancona jail.

Officials said the victims of the shooting spree are currently being treated in the hospital; at least one is in serious condition.

Traini has admitted to police that he shot randomly at the black migrants he saw in the street. He said it was revenge for the murder of Pamela Mastropietro, an 18-year-old Italian woman whose body was found dismembered a few days earlier in two abandoned suitcases outside the city. A Nigerian immigrant was detained in the case.

The news of Mastropietro's death and her body being found outside this sleepy town has been headline news in Italy for many days. Photos of the young, white woman have been shown in media reports.

She reportedly fled from a drug rehab community and then allegedly bought a fatal dose of heroin from a Nigerian drug pusher in Macerata. No official autopsy results have been released yet and the official cause of her death remains unknown.

However, this morning a judge confirmed the detention of 29-year-old Nigerian Innocent Oseghale for hiding and abandoning Mastropietro's body. Investigators believe other Nigerian drug pushers may also have been involved in her death.

The 81-year-old center-right leader Silvio Berlusconi stepped into the fray Sunday by reiterating his warning about the high number of migrants in Italy. He described the shooting in Macerata as an isolated act of non-political madness, but blamed the ruling center-left party for the more than 600,000 migrants in Italy causing a "vertical drop in security."

Berlusconi said the three governments he led in the past successfully stopped immigration and the current "600,000 migrants are a social bomb that risks exploding." He echoed words by the League party leader Matteo Salvini, part of Berlusconi’s coalition in these elections.

Salvini’s opponents have accused him of "morally arming" Traini with the anti-immigrant invectives.

Members of the ruling center-left party and the popular anti-establishment 5-Star Movement criticized Berlusconi saying that during his leadership, he was the "main culprit for the social bomb of immigration."

Although pollsters believe that the center-right bloc that includes Berlusconi’s party, the League and the far-right Brothers of Italy parties stand to win a large number of votes in the upcoming election they will not be able to obtain a ruling majority.

The populist 5-star movement is also expected to do well, but not win outright, causing an uncertain political future for the country.