On 15 July, the General Investigations and Special Operations Division (DIGOS) of the Italian Police, in charge of investigating crimes involving political violence, terrorism, and organized crime, detained three men and seized a large arsenal of weapons, including a French-made Matra Super 530 air-to-air missile, originally belonging to the Qatari Air Force, as well as 26 guns, 20 bayonets, 306 gun parts, and more than 800 bullets. Police also seized Nazi memorabilia from several properties.
The three men arrested are Fabio Del Bergiolo, 60, from Gallarate, an Italian ex-customs officer dismissed for fraud while he was working at the Malpensa airport; Alessandro Monti, 42, a Swiss national; and Fabio Bernardi, 51, also Italian. In 2001, Bergiolo had run as a Senate candidate for the neo-fascist party Forza Nuova. Monti is the owner of the hangar in Voghera where the missile was found. Bergiolo’s phone calls were intercepted when he was trying to sell Monti’s missile for about 470,000 Euros. A foreign buyer was interested in the purchase but required the full documentation of the warhead.
Bergiolo, the ringleader of the group, was collecting Fascist and Nazi memorabilia as well as guns in his home in Gallarate, where he lives with his mother. After the unsuccessful run for the Senate with Forza Nuova, he was involved in a VAT fraud on foreigners at the Milano Malpensa airport. According to the neighbors, as reported by the Italian newspaper La Stampa, Bergiolo was always angry with immigrants, calling them “monkeys and invaders of Europe”.
Anti-terrorism police said the arrests were part of an investigation, started about a year ago, into far-Right groups who fought in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas. Italian and other foreign far-Right militants have joined both sides in the conflict between separatists and Kiev’s army. A court in Genoa sentenced three men on 3 July who were found guilty of fighting alongside the Russian-backed separatists, who control a large swathe of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Two of them, Italian Antonio Cataldo and Albanian-born Olsi Krutani, got terms of two years and eight months. The third, Moldovan citizen Vladimir Vrbitchii, got one year and four months.
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini claimed the group was planning an attack against him but didn’t provide any evidence except for generic threats received from Ukrainian far-Right militants. Salvini’s controversial relations with the ruling party of Vladimir Putin’s Russia may be the reason for the Ukrainian threats. The regional leader of the neofascist Forza Nuova stated that those arrested are not currently members of the party, and thus his party has nothing to do with this police operation.
The 2018 report of the Italian intelligence service to the Parliament mentions far-Right violent extremism only in the last two pages of the 101-page document. On the one hand, it refers to the political aspects but not to the violent attacks on other factions or migrants. On the other hands, it devotes a data sheet to the Italian foreign fighters in Donbas, mentioning the “Operation 88” of the Italian police about the recruitment of far-Rights fighter for the conflict.
On 4 July, two militants from Forza Nuova attempted to get inside the national headquarters of the Democratic Party in Rome to affix some posters against the main opposition party. They were prevented to do so by the security. Fellow militants succeeded in several other cities, operating during the night against the local HQ of the Democratic Party. On the same day, the website of the Left-wing party was hacked.
According to some commentators, far-Right extremism has been underestimated by the Italian government and by Interior Minister Salvini, who was actually photographed having dinner with the leadership of neofascist group CasaPound in 2015 and often wearing clothes branded by the group.
In 2018, the hard-Left ANTIFA group from Bologna “Infoantifa Ecn” shared online an interactive map of the far-Right attacks in Italy. They collected more than 5,600 documents regarding violence or terrorism. Some of the attacks targeted the Roma community or immigrants; others were against Left-wing extremists or journalists.
Italy has generally not been targeted by jihadist terrorism but over the past 10 years it has experienced numerous firearms attacks which should be considered far-Right terrorism.
The first occurred on 13 December 2011 when a far-Right militant from CasaPound, Gianluca Casseri, 50, shot dead two immigrants from Senegal in Florence and killed himself when reached by the police. The attack was racially motivated.
The second case is the 2018 Macerata attack, carried out by neofascist Luca Traini, 28, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison for shooting and wounding six African migrants, motivated by racial hatred. Traini had run for local election with Salvini’s Lega in 2017.
In addition, the terrorist at the Christchurch mosque in New Zealand, Brenton Harrison Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian man, was inspired among the others by the attack of Luca Traini, as his name was found written on the shooter’s rifle.
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