Page last updated at 17:31 GMT, Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Arrested Mafia leader found dead

Gaetano Lo Presti, being arrested on 16 December 2008
Gaetano Lo Presti was one of dozens of people arrested on Tuesday

A suspected Mafia leader has hanged himself in prison in Sicily hours after being arrested, Italian police say.

Gaetano Lo Presti, 52, was among almost 100 alleged Mafia bosses detained in a massive security operation on Tuesday.

Police said Lo Presti, alleged boss of a Sicilian Mafia clan in a district of Palermo, hanged himself in his cell.

Tuesday's raids in Sicily and the central region of Tuscany targeted Mafia suspects believed to be trying to rebuild the Sicilian Mafia.

Some 1,200 police were involved in the raids.

The Sicilian Mafia - also known as the Cosa Nostra - was dealt a huge blow with the arrest in April 2006 of its boss, Bernardo Provenzano.

He was believed to have handed the reins to Salvatore Lo Piccolo, who was then arrested in November 2007.

Police said local crime bosses had been planning to set up a Mafia council with the aim of appointing a new godfather to re-establish the group's influence.

National prosecutor Pietro Grasso said that the raids had prevented the Cosa Nostra "from rearing its head again".

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