Published on the 15-09-2008
Italian police on Monday played down accusations that the murder of an immigrant beaten to death after he allegedly stole a packet of biscuits from a Milan bar over the weekend was a racist attack.
Nineteen-year-old Abdul Salam Guibre, an Italian citizen originally from Burkina Faso, is thought to have stolen the biscuits with two friends from a bar near the city's central station on Sunday.
Bar owners Fausto Cristofoli, 51, and his son Daniele, 31, chased the three men in a van they used as a mobile cafe', allegedly shouting ''thieves, f****** niggers'', before catching them up.
The three men began throwing bottles at the bar owners and armed themselves with improvised clubs, but were beaten with an iron bar used to open the van's service window.
Guibre was hit around the head and fell into a coma, dying in hospital a few hours later.
Milan mobile police unit chief Francesco Messina admitted there had been ''an exchange of insults'' between the men, but said the attack had been motivated by theft.
''The fact is that a boy is dead because of a packet of biscuits and there are two people who have committed murder and who will pay,'' he said.
The incident reignited a debate over the Italian government's recent crackdown on public safety and immigrant crime, with Democratic Party opposition leader Walter Veltroni accusing the centre-right of encouraging ''a climate of hate and intolerance''.
Italian Communists' Party leader Paolo Ferrero singled out the Northern League party for ''xenophobic and racist campaigns''.
''Episodes like the one in Milan are the fruit of a climate of poison created by political forces like the League that hold up immigrants as the source of all evil,'' Ferrero said.
Northern League House whip Roberto Cota hit back at criticism as ''unworthy exploitation'' of Guibre's murder.
But Milan's centre-right mayor, Letizia Moratti, acknowledged the anti-immigrant overtones of the attack in her condolences to Guibre's family.
''Milan strongly condemns such episodes of intolerance and racism,'' she said.