Italian police reported that a large cache of weapons was seized from neo-Nazi groups in a series of recent operations. According to the Italian General Investigations and Special Operations Division (DIGOS), police discovered an arsenal of weaponry.
The weapons seized from neo-Nazi groups ranged from bolt-action rifles and automatic weapons, to a “combat-ready” air-to-air missile, all obtained in a series of raids supported by police in Milan, Varese, Forli, and Novara.
Italian officials described the missile as “in perfect working order.” Media sources reported that the missile is a French-made, semi-active radar-seeking Matra Super 530F, meaning it was originally designed to be a fighter plane-killing weapon. The casing over the missile identifies it as purchased by the Qatar Armed Forces nearly forty years ago in 1980. That year, the Qatari government did in fact purchase fourteen Dassault Mirage F-1 fighter jets from France with armaments like the Matra Super 530F. While the missile lacked its explosive charge, a new one could easily be reattached by a technician with basic know-how.
Italian officials explained to local media that the raids were the culmination of a long investigation into Italian citizens that had fought in the Ukrainian conflict between government forces and Russian-backed separatists. This led investigators to uncover a far-right neo-Nazi group with branches in several Italian cities. According to the Italian news outlet La Repubblica, authorities claimed the suspects were not planning to use the missile, but rather sell it for 400,000 euros (about $529,000 USD). And apparently they were making headway. According to a report from Reuters, police said the group’s central organizers were already communicating with possible customers via WhatsApp.
While no group has been mentioned by name in reference to the raids, the default suspect is the far-right Forza Nuova, an openly fascist political group. Forza Nuova has since denied any involvement in the arms-dealing plot or having current ties with any of the suspects.
The incident points to the real and present threat of violence on the part of political groups in the West and Europe in particular. While the majority of political violence seems to be coming from the left side of the aisle, the danger of far-right groups is still alive and well.