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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 October 2006, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
Dozens seized in Italy mafia raid
Italian police
Italian police say they have stepped up their fight against the mafia
Police in Italy say they have arrested 36 suspected mafia members in Calabria, in the far south of the country.

The alleged gangsters were wanted for 40 murders committed during a war between rival mafia clans.

A police spokesman said in one case a child was tortured to reveal secrets about his family, and then killed.

Another murder was the 1985 killing of Sergio Cosmai, the director of a prison in Calabria who tried to break up the power of the mafia in his jail.

Police spokesman Giampaolo Ganzer said the arrests were aimed at ending the turf war between families of the 'Ndrangheta (loyalty), as the mafia in Calabria is known.

"We have tried to carry out a far-reaching activity," Mr Ganzer told Italian radio, "targeting all the families which have grown roots over the years and singling out those responsible for crimes."

'Global reach'

Police also blamed the 'Ndrangheta for the murder of a Calabrian opposition politician, Francesco Fortugno, last October.

Italian officials have said the 'Ndrangheta has become the most powerful and dangerous criminal organisation in Italy - stronger even than the more well-known Sicilian Cosa Nostra or the Neapolitan Camorra.

Decades of emigration from Calabria, a traditionally poor region of Italy, have allowed the 'Ndrangheta to set up outposts in the Americas and Australia.

The connection with South America has made the group a major player in the international cocaine trade.

The 'Ndrangheta established itself with kidnappings before diversifying into drug smuggling and money laundering as well as the more traditional mafia pursuits of usury and extortion.

Unlike the Cosa Nostra, the 'Ndrangheta is made up of loose family groups based on blood relationships and marriages.

Strict adherence to a code of silence means that police attempts to infiltrate the gangs or convince members to turn state's evidence seldom bear fruit.

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