Italian police have dismantled a neo-Nazi group which targeted refugees and charities which were helping them in a series of arson attacks.
Six people, all in their early 20s, were arrested in the northern city of La Spezia on suspicion of carrying out nighttime raids targeting migrants over the last two years .
Investigators with the Carabinieri – the country's national police force – discovered instructions for creating explosives, knives and other bladed weapons in a caravan belonging to the group when during the raid earlier this week.
They also found a large stash of neo-Nazi propaganda, including two swastika flags, The Local website reported.
The group, who have not been named, are suspected to have been behind two arson attacks on containers owned by Catholic charity Caritas which were used to collect second-hand clothes to be given to the refugees.
They are also believed to have been involved with other acts of vandalism including damage to plaques commemorating Italian partisans and the daubing of swastikas on the walls of a local political party’s office.
Police say the extremists used a WhatsApp messaging group to attract new recruits to their organisation and boasted about acts of violence against migrants which have so far gone unreported.
They are now all facing investigation for arson, criminal damage and racial violence.
Italy is one of several European countries which has seen an upswing in violent attacks on refugees fleeing conflict across the Mediterranean.
Accommodation for asylum seekers has been burnt down on numerous occasions in many of their destination countries such as Germany and Sweden.
In October last year, 200 residents of the Italian town of Gorino constructed a barricade to prevent the arrival of 12 women and eight children who were being taken to a publicly-owned hostel.
The refugees had been given a police escort so there was no violence but the mayor of the region was forced to say they would be given homes elsewhere.