January 8, 2010

Italy hit by race riots after immigrants shot and wounded


Clashes between police and immigrants left 32 people injured

African immigrants rioted in Italy after two farm workers were shot at with an air gun. Arrests were made and 32 people were injured in one of the country's worst race riots for years.
Immigrants in southern Italy clashed with police after they were attacked by white Italian youths with air guns.

Dozens took to the street in the town of Rosarno, Calabria, smashing car windows and setting fire to vehicles and trash cans.

Police said that a car was attacked while passengers were inside and several people were injured. A total of 32 people, including 18 policemen, were injured in the rioting which began on Thursday.

Youths fired air gun

The unrest was sparked when Italian youths fired an air gun at a group of immigrants returning from work on a farm. Two men, one from Nigeria and one from Togo, were wounded.

"Those guys were firing at us as if it were a fairground, they were laughing. I was screaming and there were other cars passing by but nobody stopped, nobody called the police," a Moroccan immigrant named Khamal told La Repubblica newspaper.

The rioters blocked a road and clashed with police in riot gear. An undisclosed number of arrests was made.

Tension continues in town

The unrest continued through Friday as store windows were smashed by immigrants. Police said that residents of Rosarno had, in two separate incidents, tried to run over immigrants with their cars.

More than 2,000 immigrants protested with banners in front of the town hall, highlighting what they say is racist treatment at the hands of locals. "We are not animals," some shouted.

Schools and shops were closed due to the tense atmosphere, and there were reports of one white resident firing ammunition into the air.

Immigrants in the town work picking fruit and vegetables, with about 1,500 living in abandoned factories with no running water.


Editor: Susan Houlton

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