Page last updated at 02:35 GMT, Friday, 28 March 2008

Italy murder fuels 'mafia' fears

By Frances Kennedy
BBC News, Rome

Italian Carabinieri on a drill in Calabria 21.08.07
A special Italian police force is called Calabria's hunters

The murder of a man in southern Italy has fuelled concern about an escalation of a blood feud among the Calabrian mafia or 'Ndrangheta.

Police say the victim, Francesco Capicchiano, 33, was carrying a pistol but did not even have time to draw it as two gunmen opened fire.

It was the third mafia murder in the Crotone area in just five days.

The 'Ndrangheta, has overtaken Sicily's Cosa Nostra as the richest and most fearsome of the Italian mafia.

It is characterised by close blood ties and a global reach. Long under-estimated it shot to international attention after last August's massacre of six young Italian men outside a pizzeria in Duisburg, Germany.

That high profile massacre was part of a faida, or feud, that had started in 1991, and which had often featured attacks on religious holidays.

Early funeral

Before Francesco Capicchiano's murder on Thursday, Luca Megna was shot dead as he drove his wife and daughter through Crotone on Easter Saturday, 22 March.

This region looks more and more like Iraq, where people are killed in broad daylight
Giacomo Mancini

He died instantly, his wife was injured and a bullet in the head of his five-year-old daughter has left her in a coma.

In true mafia style, the revenge attack mirrored the original murder. The family of Giuseppe Cavallo, 37, faced a hail of bullets as they travelled across town. The two-year-old daughter was miraculously unhurt.

In a sign of just how worried they are about further violence, local security forces ordered that Megna's funeral on Thursday be held at 0600, with no funeral procession and only the closest family present.

Teachers at a middle school attended by many children of the two rival clans all phoned in sick on Thursday - fearful for the safety of their pupils and themselves.

Map of Calabria

The headmaster appealed to the local police chief and administrators to intervene to ensure the safety of students and teachers alike.

Investigators believe the three murders are part of a clan war for control of the drug trade and extortion in Crotone. But they believe other huge business interests may have triggered the conflict.

Al-Qaeda comparison

The anti-mafia commission report points to the 'Ndrangheta's interest in the Europaradiso project to be built within a nature reserve near Crotone - it would be one of the biggest tourist centres in the Mediterranean with 120,000 beds and work for 4,000 people.

Pasquale Condello (centre) escorted by Italian policemen, 19 February 2008
'Ndrangheta chief Pasquale Condello was arrested in February

The parliamentary anti-mafia committee, this year dedicated a specific report to the 'Ndrangheta, which it likens to al-Qaeda because of its tentacular structure and lack of hierarchy.

Over the decades, the crime syndicate was able to exploit the presence of Calabrian immigrants in all corners of the globe, from Colombia to Canada, from Australia to Germany.

The president of the parliamentary anti-mafia committee, Francesco Forgione, who is running in Calabria for a Senate seat in the upcoming general election, said the upsurge in violence in Crotone "puts at risk the serenity of this electoral campaign".

Veteran politician Giacomo Mancini compared the situation to a war zone.

"They promised to turn Calabria inside out and instead this region looks more and more like Iraq, where people are killed in broad daylight with pump shotguns fired against cars," he said.

'Mafia boss' arrested in Italy
19 Feb 08 |  Europe
A mafia family feud spills over
16 Aug 07 |  Europe

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific