37 wounded in southern Italian town as migrants riot over pellet gun attacks

Associated Press / January 9, 2010

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ROSARNO, Italy - Hundreds of migrant workers, most of them Africans, went on a rampage yesterday in a southern Italian town in a second day of rioting, with authorities reporting at least 37 wounded, including 18 police officers and five migrants.

Violence ebbed and flared throughout yesterday in Rosarno, a town near the western coast of Calabria in the “toe’’ of the Italian peninsula. The clashes in the volatile area had begun a day earlier, when two migrants were wounded by pellet fire, said a top police official, Renato Cortese, in the regional capital.

Police reinforcements were being sent in, probably during the night, with the exact number still being decided, the Interior Ministry said.

Last evening, another two migrants were wounded in the feet and legs by pellet fire, and three more were seriously injured when they were beaten with metal rods, police and hospital officials said.

The two migrants shot yesterday were in the hamlet of Laureana di Borrello, 6 miles from Rosarno, said Cortese. There was no information about the attacker.

Officials at Santa Maria degli Ungheresi Hospital in the nearby town of Polistena said one of the migrants beaten by metal rods had surgery for a kidney injury and another was treated for an eye socket injury. The third wounded in the attack was taken to another hospital for brain surgery.

The rioting began after Thursday’s shooting, in which two men - one from Nigeria, the other from Togo - received minor injuries. The foreigners attributed the shooting to racism, and groups of protesters stoned police, attacked residents, and smashed shop windows and cars.

Yesterday, angry migrants, some armed with metal bars or wooden sticks, scuffled with police and residents in the streets of Rosarno.

Other residents were holed up in their homes, state radio reported, and schools and shops were shuttered.

“I’d say you could step out and buy some bread only because you have to eat, but if I had to choose I wouldn’t go out for an evening stroll,’’ said Cortese.

A young mother with a bruise under an eye and a bandage on the side of her head, told state TV migrants started smashing her car.