Europe on edge after racist attacks in Belgium and Italy

Europe on edge after racist attacks in Belgium and Italy

Europe on edge after racist attacks in Belgium and Italy

A woman leaves a stuffed animal in a destroyed bus shelter, one of the targets of the Dec. 13 shooting in Liege. Senegalese immigrants (inset) react after an Italian man with right-wing views opened fire in Florence. AFP photo

A lone gunman went on a killing spree in Liege, Belgium, shooting dead four people and injuring more than 120 before committing suicide, prosecutors said yesterday.

“Nordine Amrani committed suicide with a bullet to the head,” said prosecutor Daniele Reynders at a press conference. “The coroner said he shot himself in the forehead. He left no message to explain his act.”

The statement cleared speculation that the 33-year-old with a long criminal record may have died accidentally when a fourth grenade he was carrying exploded. Officials found 10 firearms and 9,500 gun parts along with 2,800 cannabis plants. A 15-year-old, 17-year-old and a 17-month-old baby died in Amrani’s lunch-hour grenade and gun attack on Liege’s central square, packed with Christmas shoppers and children just out of school. Approximately 120 people were injured in the attack, said Interior Minister Joelle Milquet, who left European Union talks and rushed to the scene in Liege.
Earlier yesterday, police also discovered the body of a cleaning woman around 40 years old in a shed he used to hide cannabis plants and illegal weapons. “The woman was found dead with a bullet wound to the head,” Reynders said.

Reynders said 40 people have been treated for psychological trauma. It remained unclear what motivated the attack. After searches of Amrani’s house terrorism could be excluded as the driving force, Reynders said.

He had previously been convicted for drug dealing and illegal arms possession, as well as for holding stolen goods and other crimes, he added.

 He walked alone to a busy downtown square and got onto a platform that gave him a clear view of the area below, which was bedecked with a large Christmas tree and was crowded with shoppers. From there, he lobbed three hand grenades toward a nearby bus shelter that serves 1,800 buses a day, the explosions sending shards of glass from the shelter across a wide area. He then opened fire upon the crowd.

Two dead in Florence attack

Florence was also in mourning after a far-right Italian author shot dead two Senegalese men and wounded three others yesterday before killing himself in a daylight shooting spree that prompted outpourings of grief.

Witnesses said they saw the gunman calmly getting out of a car at a street market on Piazza Dalmazia, north of the city center, firing three shots that instantly killed the two Senegalese vendors and seriously wounded a third. The white assailant, identified by authorities as 50-year-old Gianluca Casseri, then moved on to the San Lorenzo market in the center, a popular destination for tourists, where he wounded two more vendors.

Some 200 Senegalese marched through the city in an angry protest after the shootings, shouting “Shame!” and “Racists!” Casseri was also a member of Casa Pound, a right-wing community group that is seen as more intellectual than other far-right organizations.