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Sunday, January 3, 1999 Published at 19:10 GMT

World: Europe

Five die in Sicilian vendetta

The bar where the killings took place

By David Willey in Rome

Five men were killed in a settling of accounts between rival mafia gangs in a bar at Vittoria in south-east Sicily.

Police said the shooting was carried out in typical vendetta style. Two gunmen drove up to a bar at a petrol station and shot dead five people at point-blank range with pistols.

The terrified barman hid behind the bar while the murders took place.

Police said two of the victims appeared to have been killed in error. They had nothing to do with the vendetta, but happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

[ image:  ]
As usual in mafia killings, police are finding it very hard to gather evidence but it is thought the victims were members of the Carbonaro-Dominante gang, which controls much of south-east Sicily.

The gunmen were not masked and apparently did not fear being recognised. They can count on the local tradition of "omerta" - a fear of betraying mafia secrets which pervades the whole of Sicilian society.

The local mayor appealed to witnesses to come forward, but so far the only fact which has been established for certain is that the car in which the gunmen arrived had been stolen shortly before.

Vittoria in south-east Sicily is a rich agricultural area, producing abundant early fruit and vegetables because of its mild climate.

The local mafia extorts protection money from most farmers and police believe that rival gangs from another area are trying to move in.

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