An investigation by the city of Turin prosecutor's office led to the seizure by police of a real war arsenal. In several cities of northern Italy, latest generation automatic assault rifles and an air-to-air missile have been confiscated.
The operation is the result of anti-terrorism investigations that led to the arrest of three men, two Italians and one Swiss national, including Fabio Del Bergiolo, a former customs inspector specializing in anti-fraud, already in the news for perpetrating a scam and for having been a candidate for the Senate in the ranks of the far-right Forza Nuova group in 2001. We spoke about the development with Matteo Vergani, an expert on terrorism and Senior Lecturer at Melbourne's Deakin University.
We asked Vergani first to recap what emerged from the prosecutor's investigations, how these weapons ended up in Italy, including the fully functional air-to-air missile worth about half a million euros. The Digos (Italy's General Investigations and Special Operations Division) investigations started a year ago after phone tapping of a group of Italians who had fought in Ukraine. Vergani pointed out that hundreds, if not thousands, of so-called "foreign fighters" (a term generally associated with Islamic mercenaries engaged in conflicts in the Middle East) are present in the forgotten war in the Donbass region of Ukraine. Among these foreign fighters there are between 50 and 100 Italians, paradoxically fighting on both fronts: the pro-Ukrainian one and the pro-Russian one. Three of those, with documented links with the far right, were arrested in Genoa.
This news has been widely reported around the world and picked up by many international newspapers, but in Italy it has taken a back seat.
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said that "The missile discovered yesterday in Turin was destined for an attack to kill me", a detailed threat: "there was talk of a Ukrainian group that tried to make an attempt on my life", Salvini added. However, both the Digos and the Prosecutor's office - which carried out the investigations - confirmed that there is no evidence too support the allegations.
According to Matteo Vergani, Salvini has "told only half the truth". It is true, the Deakin University researcher told us, that the investigations started following the alleged threat against the Minister, but it is equally true that this aspect of the story was later excluded during the investigation.