|Witnesses told police the shooter got out of a vehicle and began shooting Senegalese vendors [Reuters]|
An Italian gunman killed two street sellers from Senegal and wounded three other people in an apparently racially-motivated shooting spree in the city of Florence before committing suicide, according to police.
Gianluca Casseri, 50, who Italian officials described as a right-wing extremist, parked his car in the crowded Dalmazia
square at lunch time on Tuesday, got out and started shooting with a large pistol, witnesses said.
Two Senegalese men were killed and one was seriously injured.
After the shooting, he drove away and opened fire again about two hours later in the central San Lorenzo market.
The market is one of the Renaissance city’s most famous, and is usually packed with tourists because of its location halfway between the famous domed cathedral and the train station.
The gunfire sparked panic among shoppers and two more street sellers, also believed to be African migrants, were wounded at the market.
Afterwards, Casseri fled to a parking garage, got in his car and shot himself in the throat, police said.
In a statement, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano condemned all forms of “racist violence and xenophobia” and called the attacks “barbarous”.
Around 200 Senegalese marched through the city in an angry protest after the shootings, shouting “Shame!” and “Racists!” Hundreds of immigrants were later seen praying on their knees in tears in front of Florence’s famous cathedral.
“The heart of Florence is crying today,” Matteo Renzi, the city’s mayor, said in a Twitter message, declaring a day of mourning on Wednesday and pledging to repatriate the bodies to Senegal.
“I think the pain for the lives that have been cut short is not only for the Senegalese community but for all the citizens of our city,” Renzi said.
“He was a bit strange, a bit of a loner but he didn’t seem crazy. He was living in his own world“
– Fabio Barsanti, Casa Pound
Andrea Riccardi, Italy’s minister of international co-operation and integration, and a Senegalese imam will attend a ceremony at Florence city hall on Wednesday.
“Don’t tell me he was crazy, because if he were crazy he would have killed both blacks and whites,” one African man who took part in the march was quoted as saying by the Italian news agency Ansa.
Casseri was the author of fantasy novels including “The Key of Chaos” about a wizard, a mathematician and an alchemist, which enjoyed some popularity.
He also wrote an academic paper about Dracula folklore and was the editor of a magazine about fantasy and horror fiction and comics. Casseri lived on his own in the Tuscan countryside near Pistoia.
He was also a member of Casa Pound, a right-wing community group that is seen as more intellectual than other far-right organisations.
“He was a bit strange, a bit of a loner but he didn’t seem crazy. He was living in his own world,” said Fabio Barsanti, a regional co-ordinator for Casa Pound.