People react after two Senegalese vendors were killed in downtown Florence on Tuesday.
An Italian far-right militant killed two Senegalese street vendors and wounded three people in a shooting spree in Florence Tuesday after which he apparently killed himself, police said.

Witnesses said they saw the gunman calmly getting out of a car at a street market on Piazza Dalmazia, north of the historic city centre, and firing off three shots that killed two vendors on the spot and gravely wounded a third.

"The third man was taken to hospital. He survived but he will be paralysed for life," said Roccangelo Tritto, a spokesman for local Carabinieri police.

The middle-aged white assailant, 50-year-old Gianluca Casseri, then moved to the San Lorenzo market in the centre - a popular destination for the thousands of tourists who visit Florence every day - where he wounded two more people.

"Then it appears that he killed himself," Tritto said, although news reports said that he may have been killed by police in a shootout.

Tritto said Casseri, an author of sci-fi novels from the town of Pistoia in the Tuscany region, appeared to have used a revolver.

The two people wounded at San Lorenzo were said not to be in serious condition.

Around 200 Senegalese street vendors protested in the city centre after the killings, crying and shouting "Shame! Shame!" and "Racists!" The vendors knocked over mopeds, rubbish bins and street signs in anger.

Florence mayor Matteo Renzi said he was ready to meet with representatives of the Senegalese community.

"I heard the shots but I thought they were fireworks. Then I turned around and I saw three men on the ground in a pool of blood," a street vendor was quoted by La Repubblica as saying at the scene of the Piazza Dalmazia shooting.

Another man said: "There are often Senegalese guys here who sell the usual stuff, they don't bother anyone and no one was expecting this."

African vendors can often be seen on the streets of Italy's main cities selling sculptures, trinkets and fake designer handbags.

Casseri was a member of the right-wing Casa Pound group, which was quick to distance itself from the deadly attacks.

"He was a bit strange, a bit lonely but he didn't seem crazy. He was living in his own world," said Fabio Barsanti, a regional coordinator for Casa Pound.

"He didn't seem capable of doing something like this," he said, adding: "We are against any type of violence. We consider the Senegalese humans like us."

Barsanti said Casseri lived on his own in the countryside, did not own a car and was a First World War buff.

Walter Veltroni, a lawmaker from the centre-left Democratic Party, said the shootings were "a terrorist attack by a right-wing extremist."

"What happened in Florence is the product of a climate of intolerance against foreigners that has grown over the years and is just barbaric," he said.