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Italian Gunman Opens Fire on Senegalese Migrant Merchants

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According to witnesses in Florence, Italy, a gunman calmly opened fire Tuesday on African street vendors in broad daylight.

Italian authorities said the man killed two Senegalese men instantly and wounded three more.

Moustapha Sarr, who moved from Senegal to Italy 21 years ago and now leads an inter-cultural tourism company that conducts tours for Italians who hope to experience daily life in Senegal, said the Senegalese immigrant community is discouraged and angered by what they say appeared to be a hate crime against the African community.

“They are very, very angry for what happened,” he said.

The shooter was allegedly a member of a right-wing extremist group in Italy, and according to Sarr, far right groups in Italy have become more outspoken recently.

“The extreme right is getting much more power,” he said.

After more than two decades of living in Italy, Sarr says he has seen an increase in anti-immigrant sentiment this year than before, particularly since the beginning of the European economic crisis.

“I see it this year. I see that the situation is changing and you face so many problems now. Before it was not like this,” he said.

Sarr’s company works within the Coordinator of Popular Initiatives for International Solidarity (CIPSI), a broader Italian association striving for the integration of immigrants.

CIPSI President Guido Barbara says racism is not ingrained in Italian culture, but that more and more immigrants are viewed as a problem within the country’s socio-economic fabric.

“Citizens are scared that immigrants will be an economic, health and security problem. They are viewed as a problem, not like people,” said Barbara.

The shooter, Gianluca Casseri, reportedly took his own life after opening fire in two of Florence’s markets.

After the killings, dozens of people from the African community marched through the streets of Florence demanding justice for what they said were racist crimes.

Article by Ricci Shryock, VOA News