Bazooka found near Italy tribunal in new threat by ‘ndrangheta mob against prosecutors

By Frances Demilio, AP
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

New mob threat: bazooka near Italy courthouse

REGGIO CALABRIA, Italy — A bazooka was discovered Tuesday near a courthouse in southern Italy in what police said was the latest act of intimidation by the ‘ndrangheta mob against prosecutors.

The Yugoslavian-made weapon, frequently used by the ‘ndrangheta crime syndicate, was not in working order when found but was clearly intended to intimidate Reggio Calabria chief prosecutor Giuseppe Pignatone, police said.

The ‘ndrangheta, which is heavily involved in drug trafficking and money laundering, is the Calabrian version of the Sicilian Mafia, also known as Cosa Nostra. Some investigators say ‘ndrangheta is now more powerful than Cosa Nostra, especially in spreading its influence abroad.

“The ‘ndrangheta is the most powerful, dangerous and richest organization at this moment,” Pignatone said in comments to state-run TV RAI. “There’s a situation of extreme tension,” he added, “a sign that our work is bothering” someone.

Recently, prosecutors have been cracking down on the group.

In July, police announced a major bust in arresting some 300 people after infiltrating weddings and other intimate ‘ndrangheta gatherings.

And just this past weekend, Pignatone disclosed that a recently arrested ‘ndrangheta suspect had begun collaborating with authorities. Such turncoats are rare in the ‘ndrangheta, which is more family-based and tight-knit than the Sicilian Mafia, which has been compromised by turncoat revelations over the years.

In the wake of the new threat, law enforcement and security officials meeting Wednesday in Reggio Calabria are expected to ask the government to send in the military to help fight organized crime, according to TV RAI and the ANSA news agency. Soldiers were sent into Sicily in the 1990s to help free up police for investigation of the Mafia.

The backlash by the ‘ndrangheta against the crackdown has been strong.

In January, a bombing damaged the entrance to the Reggio Calabrian courthouse, which houses the prosecutors’ offices. A few weeks later, a bullet was mailed to an anti-mob prosecutor. And in August, a bombing damaged the house of a magistrate who has been taking on the ‘ndrangheta.

On Tuesday, police discovered the bazooka about 200 yards (meters) from the tribunal after authorities received an anonymous call indicating its presence and intended warning, said police chief Renato Cortese.

“It’s the latest attempt by the ‘ndrangheta — fatally wounded by the continued successes of magistrates, law enforcement and the government,” Justice Minister Angelino Alfano said in a statement Tuesday urging solidarity with prosecutors.

The weapon was discovered as police were carrying out raids on some 250 locations in connection with the previous acts of intimidation against law enforcement, ANSA reported.

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