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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 December, 2004, 15:40 GMT
Naples police in huge mafia swoop
Ciro Di Lauro, son of alleged Italian mobster Paolo Di Lauro, is arrested in Naples early on Tuesday
Ciro Di Lauro (second left), son of an alleged mobster, was arrested
Police have staged a massive operation in the Italian city of Naples, where a turf war between rival mafia gangs has claimed scores of lives.

About 1,000 carabinieri paramilitary police backed by helicopters swooped on poor districts and villages in the Naples area on Tuesday.

Among the 53 people reportedly arrested was Ciro Di Lauro, son of alleged mobster boss Paolo Di Lauro.

A feud within the Di Lauro clan is thought to be behind the violence.

Twenty-three people have been killed in Naples in the last month alone, prompting authorities to crack down on the local mafia, known as the Camorra.

Tough tactics

Police accompanied by sniffer dogs and bomb disposal units swept into the city's outskirts early on Tuesday, as helicopters swarmed above.

The operation was concentrated on the poor districts of Secondigliano and Scampia but other villages were also raided.

Police tore down barricades around suspects' homes.

They seized 100,000 euros (70,000) and about 10 pistols, AP news agency reported.

Police said they were still looking for another 12 suspects but reports suggest the bulk of this operation has been completed.

Italian Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu hailed the operation as a "real blow" to the Camorra.

The crackdown must continue with the same intensity until this wave of criminal violence is stopped
Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu

But speaking on Italian radio he warned that the "government has a wider plan in mind aimed at eradicating the Camorra from Naples and the entire region".

"The crackdown must continue with the same intensity until this wave of criminal violence is stopped," he said.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi congratulated the police in a telephone call to Mr Pisanu, AFP news agency reported.

Drug wars

Investigators say the violence was caused by a split within the once all-powerful Di Lauro clan.

The splinter group, called the "secessionists", has been trying to assert its control over drugs and prostitution rackets in the area, say investigators.

Bombed-out pizzeria in Naples
More than 120 people are thought to have died in mafia attacks
This operation comes two days after two more men were killed in apparent mafia murders, bringing the total number of deaths attributed to them to 120 in the past year.

But not everyone appears happy with police tactics to staunch the mafia blood-letting.

Correspondents say many Neapolitans suspect that in the past police have been content to allow the mafia to kill each other off - despite the innocents often caught in the crossfire.

In March, 14-year-old Annalisa Durante died when she was shot in the head while being used as a human shield by someone trying to flee a mafia ambush.

Mr Pisanu defended the police's record in the city.

"It's true that in the last month there have been 23 murders in Naples, almost all of them Camorra-related, but it's also true that since 1 November, 686 people have been arrested," he said.

Watch police rounding up mafia members

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06 Dec 04 |  Europe
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30 Mar 04 |  Europe

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