ROME (AP) — An immigrant illegally living in Italy went on a rampage with a pickaxe in Milan at dawn Saturday, killing a passer-by and wounding four others in an apparently random attack, police said.
The attack, which police say was carried out by a Ghanaian immigrant with a criminal record, immediately revived a long-raging political debate over whether Italy should crack down harder on immigrants or facilitate their path toward citizenship, as recently lobbied for by Italy's first black Cabinet minister, who had immigrated from Congo.
The 21-year-old attacker was taken into custody shortly after the attacks in a residential area on the northern outskirts of Milan, according to Carabinieri paramilitary police in the city. Two of the wounded were in critical condition.
People working in cafes and other businesses near the attack told Sky TG24 TV that the man wildly swung a pickaxe, running down streets and striking passers-by, mainly on the head. Pools of blood stained the streets.
A 40-year-old man died after being struck on the head and abdomen with the pickaxe, police said. The victim was described as an unemployed man who was heading to a cafe near his home.
A man in his 20s who was helping his father to deliver newspapers to newsstands was among those wounded; another was a man walking his dog.
When asked about the motive, Col. Biagio Storniolo told reporters the suspect "was not being cooperative. He says only that he is hungry and has no home."
The man, identified as Mada Kabobo, was jailed while he is investigated for murder and two counts of attempted murder for the two people who were critically wounded, police said. The suspect, who had no documents on him, was identified from fingerprints.
Police said he was in the country illegally, and had previously been arrested in the Puglia region for alleged, theft, robbery, property damage and resisting public authorities. He hadn't yet received orders to be expelled from Italy, because his criminal cases first had to make their way through the courts, police said.
The Lombardy region with Milan as its capital is a power base for the anti-immigrant Northern League party, and its exponents quickly seized on the attack to push their case that Italy needs to be tougher on immigrants.
The party is the main ally of Silvio Berlusconi, the former premier and media mogul who has been trying for a political comeback and whose People of Freedom party is the main coalition partner of Premier Enrico Letta's government.
Integration Minister Cecile Kyenge was immediately targeted by racist slurs following the Congo-born woman's recent appointment by Letta. She has said she would make it a priority to change Italy's citizenship law, which requires those born in Italy to non-Italian parents to wait until they turn 18 before they can request citizenship.
The minister insists the citizenship law should be reformed so that those born in Italy don't have to wait all that time to request citizenship.
While saying that attack was the work of a "madman," a League official, Matteo Salvini, immediately criticized what he contended was the minister's soft line on immigration.
The attack was "committed by a clandestine immigrant who shouldn't have been here and should have been expelled," he said.
Salvini said the League was readying a petition drive to protest Kyenge's policies.