The regional leader of a far-right political movement in Italy was reportedly bound and beaten by protestors in Palmero as tensions boil over in the country ahead of a general election.
Massimo Ursino, the local leader of Forza Nuova, was allegedly tied up with packaging tape before being beaten in an attack that involved six people, thelocal.it reported.
On Wednesday (21 February), Italian authorities raided homes of people suspected of involvement in the attack, including some student accommodation.
On Facebook, the Sicilian Forza Nuova branch called the attack a "vile and serious assault" and claimed it was the result of a "campaign of hatred" against the far-right movement.
"Maximum solidarity with the comrade attacked, nothing will go unpunished," they added.
In another post, they pointed blame at prominent left-wing politicians in the country who had warned against a growing neo-fascist movement.
Local news organisations reportedly recieved an anonymous statement claiming that the attack was a demonstration that "in Palermo there are people who have no fear of fighting fascism".
Palmero's Mayor, Leoluca Orlando said that the incident was a "sign of the degeneration that Italian politics is suffering" and that fascism was not fought by violent squads but instead by "culture and resistance".
Orlando later added that the anti-fascists "inspired" by fascist tactics were "intolerable in a city that is certainly anti-fascist and anti-racist".
Tensions have been high in the country in the run up to the election as campaigns have dealt with the topic of migration. Concerns were heightened after a far-right sympathiser allegedly draped in an Italian flag opened fire on a group of African immigrants a day after a Nigerian man was arrested in connection with the murder of an Italian woman.
Ursino's criminal record has also been a topic of discussion. In 2006 he was sentenced to prison time for an attack on two Bangladeshi immigrants who had allegedly been part of a robbery.