Italian police seize ‘Qatari’ missile from far-right sympathizers

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This handout picture released by the Italian police (Polizia di Stato)of Turin, on July 15 2019, shows an air-to-air missile, as part of a big cache of guns and ammunition was seized by the Turin special police force, called Digos, led the operations, assisted by police in Milan, Varese, Forli and Novara. (AFP)
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This handout picture released by the Italian police (Polizia di Stato) of Turin, on July 15, 2019, shows italian policemen carry an air-to-air missile, as part of a big cache of guns and ammunition that was seized by the Turin special police force, called Digos, led the operations, assisted by police in Milan, Varese, Forli and Novara. (AFP)
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Police stand by a missile seized at an airport hangar near Pavia, northern Italy, following an investigation into Italians who took part in the Russian-backed insurgency in eastern Ukraine, in Turin, Italy, Monday, July 15, 2019. (AP)
Updated 16 July 2019

Italian police seize ‘Qatari’ missile from far-right sympathizers

  • Police have carried out several raids in recent weeks on far-right targets around Turin, with a man arrested earlier this month for advocating fascism and possessing illegal weapons

ROME: Italian police seized an air-to-air missile, machine guns and rocket launchers during raids sparked by an investigation into far-right extremist groups on Monday, a huge haul of weapons that authorities said was almost without precedent.
Police arrested three people, including Fabio Del Bergiolo, 50, a former candidate for the neo-fascist Forza Nuova party, whose home was found to contain a huge stash of arms as well as neo-Nazi propaganda and Hitler memorabilia.
“During the operation, an air-to-air missile in perfect working order and used by the Qatari army was seized,” police said of the 800 kilogramme Matra missile.
They also found automatic assault rifles that they described as “latest generation” among the cache.
“This is a significant seizure, with few precedents in Italy,” said Turin police commissioner Giuseppe De Matteis.
The missile, 3.54 meters (more than 11 feet) long was made in France and Del Bergiolo had been hoping to sell it for 470,000 euros ($529,000), according to Italian media reports.
The missile was “without explosive charge, but re-armable by people specialized in the field,” police said.
“For now, nothing leads us to suspect” an active plot to use the weapons, said counter-terrorism official Eugenio Spina.
The other arrests were a Swiss, 42, and an Italian, 51, accused of holding and marketing the missile, which was found by police at a warehouse near the small Rivanazzano Terme airport in the Pavia province.

The Mantra Super 530 F was a modernization of the R530 missile that went into service in 1980, and has a range of 25 kilometers (15 miles), with an explosive charge of 30 kilos.
“It is extremely dangerous and risky to turn it into a missile to fire from the ground, unless you have good engineers and equipment,” a missile expert who asked not to be named told AFP.
Similarly, because of its age, it is “extremely unlikely that it can be used, but its use can be changed,” he added.
The raids were the result of a police probe into Italian extremists known to have joined pro-Russian rebels fighting in Ukrainian.
Messages intercepted by the police led them to investigate Del Bergiolo, who had sent photographs of the missile for sale through the Whatsapp messaging service.
They put him under surveillance before raiding his home and finding a stash of weapons including a Scorpion machine gun, 306 firearm parts and 20 bayonets.
His collection included street signs from the Nazi era, including one reading “Adolf-Hitler Platz.”

Police in Pavia also found the cockpit of a military plane.
The Digos law enforcement agency, which deals largely with terrorism and organized crime, led the operation from Turin with assistance from police in Forli, Milan, Novara and Varese.
“We have some idea about what the seized equipment could be used for, but will not speculate,” De Matteis told reporters.
The Forza Nuova party released a statement Monday distancing itself from Del Bergiolo.
Police have carried out several raids in recent weeks on far-right targets around Turin, with a man arrested earlier this month for advocating fascism and possessing illegal weapons.
While Italy’s far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini was uncharacteristically quiet following the raid, the opposition center-left Democratic Party (PD) urged the country’s populist government to do more to tackle right-wing extremists.
“The far right in this country trafficks weapons of war, and even missiles. It’s an incredible, very serious event,” said Maurizio Martina, the PD’s former party head.


Filipino expats unite as home country battles volcano’s wrath

Updated 18 min 55 sec ago

Filipino expats unite as home country battles volcano’s wrath

  • Filipino groups in Dubai are coming together to collect goods for donation for the Taal eruption victims
  • The Philippines remained on high alert on Friday as authorities monitored Taal, which is the second most active volcano in the country

DUBAI: A vast grey stretched across empty villages – once verdant, now lifeless after volcanic ash wiped its colors. The thick charcoal-like substance cloaked cracked roads, tumbled trees, and dilapidated houses, as an angry volcano rumbled in the Philippines.

Tens of thousands of people were displaced earlier this week when Taal Volcano, a picturesque tourist spot about 70 kilometers south of Manila, spew huge plume of volcanic ash to the sky and triggered sporadic tremors around the province.

“When can we go back to our homes?” a hopeful man asked Filipino volunteer Jaya Bernardo, as she visited an evacuation site near where the Taal Volcano erupted on Sunday.

She couldn’t answer him straight, Bernardo said, because that meant telling him there might not be anything to go back to.

Bernardo, who lives in a mildly-hit town around Taal, has been going around evacuation centers to give out care packages, saying it’s “important for people to come together” in times like this.

Within hours of the volcanic eruption, the call for help reached the UAE, home to about a million Filipino expats. Many community groups have been organizing donation drives to collect goods to be sent back home.

Lance Japor, who leads a community group in Dubai, said inquiries were coming in about how to help volcano victims even before a campaign was announced.

“What I’ve noticed is that the desire to help others in need is innate to us,” he told Arab News, adding it was not the first time Filipino expats showed urgent concern and care for their countrymen when a calamity hit the Philippines.

There was a strong response for families displaced from a city in the south of the country after armed rebels captured the area. A community group from Dubai flew to the restive city to hand out gifts to families who had taken refuge in an abandoned building.

Japor’s volcano campaign has attracted the help of private companies such as hotels donating blankets and pillows, and cargo companies pledging to deliver the packages for free to the Philippines.

Filipino expats have also expressed a desire to volunteer, Japor added, and a volunteer event has been scheduled for Jan. 18 at the Philippines’ Overseas Workers Welfare Administration’s office in Dubai.

Groups in the UAE are working with organizations in the Philippines to facilitate the donations and determine what the affected communities need. The list includes special face masks and eye drops, said Japor.

The Philippines remained on high alert on Friday as authorities monitored Taal, which is the second most active volcano in the country.

Volcanic ash has blanketed the area and villages lie empty, with authorities warning of a “bigger eruption” as earthquakes were still being felt around the area. 

The region was at alert level four from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, meaning that “hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days.” The highest alert level is five.

The institute strongly reiterated total evacuation of Taal Volcano Island and high-risk areas as identified in hazard maps.

“Residents around Taal Volcano are advised to guard against the effects of heavy and prolonged ashfall. Civil aviation authorities must advise pilots to avoid the airspace around Taal Volcano as airborne ash and ballistic fragments from the eruption column pose hazards to aircraft,” it added.

Police in the area have also warned residents against trying to go back to their houses without official clearance from authorities, but local media reports said people were sneaking back by boat to the island and nearby towns to check on their possessions.