Italian soccer fan arrested in fatal beating of refugee who fled Boko Haram

ROME (Italy) — A Nigerian refugee believed to have fled the terrorist group Boko Haram with his wife has died after being attacked by a football fan in a small Italian town.

Emmanuel Chidi Namdi was attacked in Fermo, a small Italian town, on Tuesday after coming to the defence of his wife who was verbally abused by two Italians, according to locals.

Chinyery Emmanuel told police her 36 year-old husband was knocked unconscious by a man brandishing a road-sign pole.

Emmanuel Chidi Namdi, 36, and his wife, Chinyery, fled to Italy last year after surviving a violent attack on a church in Nigeria by the Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram, in which members of their family were killed.

According to the authorities, the suspect, Amedeo Mancini, 39, accosted the couple — Emmanuel Chidi Namdi and his wife, who was identified as Chinyery Emmanuel — while they were strolling on Tuesday afternoon on a street in Fermo, a town of about 37,000 in the central Italian region of Marche, near the Adriatic coast.

The man allegedly called Mr Namdi’s 24-year-old wife a “monkey” and when Mr Namdi responded to the slur he was beaten and left in an irreversible coma before dying on Wednesday. On Thursday a local man, Amedeo Mancini, 38, was arrested on suspicion of Mr Namdi’s murder.

The attack has prompted a nationwide reaction. On Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi telephoned the Rev. Vinicio Albanesi, the priest who was hosting the couple at a seminary, to offer condolences.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was among many across Italy who took to social media to express disgust at the killing, using the hashtag Emmanuel.

“The government today is in Fermo with Don Vinicio and the local institutions in memory of Emmanuel. Against hate, racism and violence,” he wrote.

Italy’s interior minister, Angelino Alfano, presided over a hastily convened meeting with the local authorities in Fermo. “As mayor of a town that is welcoming and open to integration, I feel I’m living in a nightmare,” the town’s mayor, Paolo Calcinaro, said in a statement.

“The heart of Italy isn’t represented by those who carried out this murder”  Angelino Alfano. He also announced that Emmanuel Chidi’s partner Chinyery had been granted refugee status.

People left flowers on Thursday at memorial in Fermo, Italy, that marked the spot where Emmanuel Chidi Namdi was beaten. Photo: Credit Cristiano Chiodi/EPA

People left flowers on Thursday at memorial in Fermo, Italy, that marked the spot where Emmanuel Chidi Namdi was beaten. Photo: Credit Cristiano Chiodi/EPA

Mr Namdi and his wife arrived in Fermo last September and were being supported by the Catholic Church. The couple had travelled to Italy across the Mediterranean and were trying to put their troubled past behind them.

“Emmanuel was always smiling, full of enthusiasm and with plans for the future,” said local priest, Father Vinicio Albanesi, who knew the couple well, in an interview with the Italian daily, La Repubblica. “He was dreaming of a job, a house and above all a visa to remain in Italy.”

Father Albanesi said Mr Namdi’s death rang alarm bells about the extent of xenophobia and racism, and said the community would continue to promote integration in Fermo.

Local churches which have worked with migrants have recently been targeted by small bombs, according to Father Vinicio Albanesi.

Nigerians make up 12% of the more than 70,000 people who have arrived in Italy by sea so far this year, the second-largest group by nationality after Eritreans.

Refugees and migrants are hosted across Italy in centres run by the government or outsourced to private organisations and charities. Pope Francis has encouraged parishes to take in asylum seekers, and the Vatican has recently hosted a number of refugee families in Rome.