Italian police have dismantled an online hate group dedicated to antisemitic and racist propaganda targeting young people. The group was in the early stages of planning an attack on a NATO facility.
Italian police announced on Monday they had broken up an online neo-Nazi group dedicated to antisemitic and racist propaganda that encouraged young people to carry out extreme acts of violence against Jews and foreigners.
Italian postal police and Carabinieri paramilitary police said individuals aged between 26 and 62 were allegedly involved in the group.
Twelve people were present on Facebook and Russian social network VK under the name, "Ordine Ario Romano," which is believed to be a reference to the racist writings of fascist author Julius Evola, a Carabinieri police statement said.
The group's social media postings were "inspired by Nazi, antisemitic and Holocaust-denial ideologies, as well as by anti-Jewish conspiracy theories," the statement added.
Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese said the online network "exploited the fragility" of young people, and "[incited] youths to carry out extreme gestures."
Under investigation since 2019, the 12 suspects belonged to "an antisemitic and racist group particularly active on social media," Lamorgese added.
The crackdown included blacking out the networks website, which claims to have over 17,000 members, including many users abroad.
Police said the 12-person hate group, along with help from members of a Portugese far-right political movement, was in the early stages of planning an attack on an unnamed NATO facility using homemade explosives.
Writing in Italian, Ruth Dureghello, president of Rome's Jewish Community, tweeted her thanks for the group being shut down.
"I thank the Rome Public Prosecutor's Office for dismantling an antisemitic group that planned attacks against Jews and non-EU citizens," Dureghello wrote.
"Today, the antisemitic propaganda on social media is a prelude to other forms of violence. We cannot lower our guard."
Several of the individuals allegedly involved were already known to police for far-right activities.
According to reports in Italian media, 39-year-old Francesca Rizzi was one of those targeted by police.
Italy's La Repubblica newspaper reported Rizzi has a tattoo of a Nazi eagle and a swastika on her back. In 2019, Rizzi won a "Miss Hitler" contest, which encourages women to post Nazi-themed selfie-style photos along with an explanation as to why they "love and revere the Third Reich of Adolf Hitler," pageant organizers from the so-called World Truth Historical Revisionism requested of entrants on their website before the page was removed by a web hosting company.
The 12 suspects involved in the online network have been charged with criminal association aimed at spreading propaganda, incitement with ethnic and racial discrimination motives and must regularly report to police while the investigation against them continues, authorities said.
jlw/aw (AFP, AP)