Italy says breaks up neo-fascist group suspected of planning attacks

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 22, 2014 11:41 AM

ROME (Reuters) - Italian police on Monday arrested 14 people they said were members of a neo-fascist movement that was planning attacks on politicians, prosecutors and the police.

The suspects were rounded up in raids around Italy on charges including attempted terrorism, attempted subversion of democracy and instigating racial violence, the national Carabinieri police said in a statement.

Italy is still reeling from the "Mafia Capitale" scandal involving a network of corruption based in Rome that investigators said was run by a former right-wing extremist with long-standing ties to the capital's underworld.

Police said they had disbanded the "New Order Vanguard", calling it a clandestine organization which modeled itself on the far-right "New Order" movement active in widespread political violence in Italy in the 1970s.

Mario Parente, head of the special Carabinieri unit which has conducted the so-called "Black Eagle" investigation since 2013, told reporters that New Order Vanguard aimed to break up Italy's social order and found a new political party at a time of rising social tensions as the economy has deteriorated badly.

"We believe we have intervened before the organization could put its plans into action," said prosecutor Fausto Cardella. "The plans were in place and we couldn't run the risk of only discovering afterwards how concrete they were."

As well as the 14 arrests, 31 other people were formally placed under investigation.

The police statement said the group was led by Stefano Manni, a 48-year-old former policeman with long-standing far-right connections who was active in planning its strategy and disseminating racist propaganda. He was under arrest.

A sharp increase in social unrest in Italy in recent months is often attributed to falling living standards and record unemployment following six years of stagnation and recession.

The far-right Northern League party has seen a surge in its support as it has capitalized on growing hostility towards immigrants and Roma people.

The Black Eagle operation involved wiretaps and undercover agents who infiltrated New Order Vanguard which police said was targeting politicians and other public figures.

(Reporting by Gavin Jones; Editing by Mark Heinrich)