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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 May, 2004, 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK
Sicilian Mafia suspects arrested
Antonino Giuffre
Former Mafia aide Antonino Giuffre's information was said to have led to the arrests
Italian police say they have arrested 11 leading Mafia suspects in raids on villages in Sicily.

Two suspects are thought to be aides of the elusive alleged chief of the Sicilian Mafia, Bernardo Provenzano, according to a Palermo prosecutor.

Mr Provenzano has been at large for over 30 years, allegedly succeeding the former boss after his arrest in 1993.

All 11 detainees are held on suspicion of Mafia association, extortion and the possession of firearms.

State informant

In recent years, investigators have arrested several people close to Mr Provenzano, including his right-hand man, Antonino Giuffre, in 2002.

Mr Giuffre has since become a state informant and provided information that led to Tuesday's arrests, in the Palermo area.

Italy's top anti-Mafia prosecutor, Pier Luigi Vigna, praised the police operation, saying it was part of a "scorched earth policy" aimed at isolating Mr Provenzano.

In October, police arrested fugitive Mafia suspect Salvatore Sciarabba, said to be a deputy of Mr Provenzano.

Mr Provenzano is credited with re-organising the Sicilian Mafia after the arrest in 1993 of Toto Riina, known as the "boss of bosses".

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