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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 January 2008, 15:10 GMT
Italy police smash Nigerian gang
Italian police
The operation was spearheaded by Italian anti-mafia police
Italian police have arrested dozens of alleged members of a gang accused of smuggling Nigerians into Europe to work as drug couriers and prostitutes.

"Operation Viola" led to 51 arrests in Italy and 15 in other parts of Europe, mostly in The Netherlands.

Most of the people trafficked by the gang were women and children, some of whom had been kidnapped from Nigerian orphanages, police said.

An earlier phase of the operation ended in October with 23 arrests.

Suspects at the time were arrested in The Netherlands, Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, the US and Nigeria.

The latest suspects held by Italian police face charges relating to slavery, kidnapping and trafficking people and drugs.

The crackdown was organised by anti-mafia officials in Naples, and aided by the Dutch police.

A chief anti-mafia prosecutor, Pietro Grasso, said the arrests had dealt a major blow to a "dangerous" gang centred around the Nigerian city of Lagos.

Police said the gang's activities had earned it hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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