Italian plot to create new Nazi party uncovered, police say

Weapons including automatic rifles that were seized in searches of properties of an extreme right group in Italy Image copyright Polizia di Stato/Handout via Reuters
Image caption Police say they found weapons and books on Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini

Italian police say they have uncovered a plot to form a new Nazi party and seized weapons including rifles and swords in searches across the country.

Officers raided the homes of 19 suspects. They also found Nazi flags and books on Hitler and Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini.

The target was the self-styled Italian National Socialist Workers' Party. The number of arrests made is not clear.

Monitors say anti-Semitic attacks and neo-Nazi activity are rising in Italy.

Operation Black Shadows by anti-terrorism and anti-mafia police was carried out across the country, from Milan to Sicily, after two years of investigations.

The self-styled party aimed to form a pan-European alliance with other xenophobic and anti-Semitic groups, police said, without revealing how many people had joined it.

One suspect allegedly had links with the 'Ndrangheta criminal network while another, a 50-year-old woman, called herself Hitler's sergeant-major.

Image copyright Polizia di Stato/Handout via Reuters
Image caption A sticker with the symbol of the self-styled Italian National Socialist Workers' Party
Image copyright Polizia di Stato/Handout via Reuters
Image caption Weapons and flags were among items that police seized

In July, police seized an air-to-air missile and other sophisticated weapons as well as neo-Nazi propaganda during raids on far-right extremist groups in northern Italy.

Thursday's operation comes after Liliana Segre, an 89-year-old senator who survived the Holocaust, was given police protection after reporting up to 200 hate messages a day.

She called for a parliamentary committee to combat hatred and anti-Semitism, which was approved without the support of members of the nationalist League party, led by Matteo Salvini, the centre-right Forza Italia and the far-right Brothers of Italy.

The country's Observatory on Anti-Semitism reported 190 anti-Semitic attacks in the first nine months of the year - more than double those in 2017. Italy has a population of about 30,000 Jews, and more than 7,500 Italian Jews died during the Holocaust.

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