Hundreds of migrant workers, most of them Africans, went on a rampage Friday in a southern Italian town in a second day of rioting, with authorities reporting five migrants wounded by gunfire and clubbings.
Violence ebbed and flared throughout Friday in Rosarno, a town near the western coast of Calabria in the "toe" of the Italian peninsula. The clashes in the crime-ridden and volatile area had begun a day earlier, when two migrants were wounded by pellet fire, said a top police official, Renato Cortese, in the regional capital.
Friday evening, in separate incidents, another two migrants were reported wounded in the feet and legs by pellet fire, and three more were seriously injured when they were beaten with metal rods.
The two migrants shot Friday were in the hamlet of Laureana di Borrello, about 6 miles from Rosarno, said Cortese. There was no immediate information about the attacker.
In the third incident, three men were seriously injured when they were beaten with metal sticks, said the emergency room at Santa Maria degli Ungheresi Hospital in the nearby town of Polistena. One was had surgery for a kidney injury and another was treated for an eye socket injury at Polistena hospital, while the third migrant was taken to Reggio Calabria hospital for brain surgery, the emergency room officials said.
The rioting began after Thursday's shooting, in which two men - one from Nigeria, the other from Togo - were slightly injured. The foreigners angrily blamed that shooting on racism. Groups of protesters then stoned police, attacked residents, smashed shop windows and cars and knocked over garbage bins.
On Friday, angry migrants, mostly from African nations, some armed with metal bars or wooden sticks, scuffled with police and residents in sporadic clashes in the streets of Rosarno.
Other residents, afraid to venture into the streets, were holed up in their homes, state radio reported.
"I'd say you could step out and buy some bread only because you have to eat, but if I had to choose I wouldn't go out for an evening stroll," said Cortese, asked by the AP in a telephone interview how dangerous Rosarno's streets were.
The Interior Ministry, in charge of state police, said schools and shops were closed.
Paramilitary Carabinieri police in the regional capital of Reggio Calabria said by early Friday evening 34 people had been injured, including the two migrants, 14 residents and 18 police officers.
An exact number of arrests was not immediately available since the clashes were continuing although they were "under control," said the Carabinieri press office.
Earlier, the Interior Ministry said seven migrants had been arrested.
The Italians arrested included one who, driving a bulldozer, tried to hit a migrant as the rioters headed toward the town's center. Another Italian resident was taken into custody after trying to hit a migrant with a car, the Italian news agency ANSA reported from Rosarno, a town of 15,000 people.
Agazio Loiero, the governor of the Calabria region, told Sky TV said that the violence was "unacceptable" but that the migrants had been "strongly provoked."
Thousands of migrants move to the area each year where they help with the harvest as seasonal workers. Living in improvised dormitories, including abandoned factories and huts, they earn as little as euro20-25 ($30-37.50) during a dawn-to-dusk work day. Often without work permits, they do jobs many Italians shun, despite chronic underemployment in the poorly developed south, involving seasonal fruit, like mandarin oranges and kiwi.
Interior Minister Roberto Maroni convened a special meeting to discuss the rioting. Afterward, the ministry created a task force to deal with the violence and "aspects linked to the exploitation of illegal labor and health care" for the migrants. Calabria also is the base of the international crime syndicate called 'ndrangheta. The unrest follows a recent decision by the Italian authorities to increase police numbers in Reggio Calabria after a weekend bomb blast damaged a courthouse in what was seen as a move by the mob to intimidate magistrates.
The combination of ethnic strife and organized crime activity has sparked other violence before among migrant communities in southern Italy. In 2008, migrants rioted in the Naples area after six Ghanians were murdered in a gangland-style shooting blamed on the local Camorra crime syndicate.