Horror in Italy after Roma sisters die in arson attack

Rome - Three Roma sisters burned to death in an arson attack on their camper van in the outskirts of the capital on Wednesday, sparking an outpouring of grief in Ital.

The girls, aged four, eight and 20, were sleeping with their parents and eight other siblings when the van went up in flames.

Images from a surveillance camera show a man throwing a bottle against the vehicle before the blaze, investigators said.

It was not immediately clear if it was a xenophobic act or someone from another traveller family settling a score. Surviving family members had reported being threatened by locals in recent days, according to media reports.

The pro-Roma group Associazione 21 Luglio, which regularly condemns discrimination and violence against Roma and Sinti in Italy - including repeated cases of local residents attacking camps with Molotov cocktails - expressed "pain" at the deaths.

President Sergio Mattarella denounced the "horrible crime", echoing Rome mayor Virginia Raggi's sorrow and Pope Francis sent his chaplain to comfort the bereaved family and bring them "concrete assistance", the Vatican said.

Although over half of the 170 000 or so Roma and Sinti people in Italy are Italian citizens with regular jobs and houses, hate crimes against the poorest strata are rife.

The intolerance is fuelled by inflammatory comments by politicians on both the left and right quick to paint Roma as crooks.

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