ROME-- A shaven-headed far-right supporter suspected of wounding six Africans on Saturday (Feb 3) in brazen drive-by shootings in central Italy was arrested, as the country's interior minister said "racial hatred" had prompted the attack.

After the morning assault in the town of Macerata, the suspect got out of his car, made a fascist salute with a tricolour Italian flag draped over his shoulders and shouted "Viva Italia", or "Long Live Italy", and "Italy for Italians," media reports said.

The wounded were five men and one woman from Ghana, Mali and Nigeria, the Agi news agency said. It came a day after a Nigerian man was arrested in the town over the gruesome murder of a teenage Italian girl.

Interior Minister Marco Minniti said the attack was part of a culture "of right-wing extremism with clear reference to fascism and Nazism" and deplored that the sole link between the victims was "the colour of their skin".

He said the "criminal act" was "prepared in advance".

The man allegedly opened fire in eight areas in the town and also targeted the office of the centre-left Democratic Party in a two-hour terror spree in the sleepy town of 43,000 people, press reports said.

"Six people were injured and all of them are foreigners," said town mayor Romano Carancini. Police confirmed in a tweet that "the wounded persons were of foreign nationality", adding that the "presumed author of the attack is Italian".

One victim was seriously injured in the thorax, press reports said. The other five had lesser injuries.

Television footage showed the suspect being arrested at the town's war memorial. Police also posted a photo of the capture.

Italian media identified the man as Luca Traini, 28, and said he was a member of the far-right anti-immigration Northern League party, who had run in local elections last year.

Media reports said police found a gun in the man's vehicle, a black Alfa Romeo.


Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni meanwhile made a pitch for unity, saying: "Hate and violence will not divide us."

The attack comes a day after a Nigerian asylum-seeker was arrested in Macerata over the gruesome killing of an 18-year-old Italian woman whose dismembered body was discovered in suitcases earlier this week.

Police found the clothes of the victim, Pamela Mastropietro, in the house of the 29-year-old Nigerian as well as a bloodstained knife.

However, no official link has been made between the two incidents.

The country is a favoured landing point on Europe's southern coastline for migrants making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean, often aboard unseaworthy boats, to enter the continent.

But 2017 was a turning point for Italy: the country went from large-scale arrivals in the first six months to a sharp drop-off, thanks to controversial agreement between the EU and Libya.

Some 119,000 people landed in Italy last year, down 35 per cent on 2016.