Italy ordered the deployment of 500 soldiers yesterday to tackle violent crime in response to the mafia killings of six African migrants near Naples last week.
Ignazio La Russa, the defence minister, said the majority of the troops would be sent to the area around Casal di Principe, home to the Casalesi clan, the most feared grouping within the Naples Camorra, which is suspected of 10 other killings this year. Last week’s murders led to rioting by migrants in the area.
The troops will staff checkpoints for three months alongside 400 extra police drafted into the area on Monday. About 3,000 soldiers were deployed earlier this year as part of an anti-crime drive in big cities and their mandate was renewed for another six months yesterday.
The deployment of soldiers to the Naples hinterland is the first time the army has been used to specifically target the mafia since 1992, when troops were sent to Sicily following the murders of anti-mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. “We need to put into play everything that can be useful in resolving the problem,” said Piero Grasso, an anti-mafia prosecutor.
But Marina Sereni, the deputy opposition whip in parliament, said the government was sending in troops while “cutting funds to the police and abandoning whole areas of our country to organised crime”.
The Casalesi clan has created a fiefdom in the small towns north of Naples through the illegal dumping of toxic waste and construction.
Nigerian gangs have allied with the clan to deal drugs in the area, but the newspaper La Stampa said those shot dead last week in Castelvolturno were law-abiding migrants, targeted randomly “to sow terror” among foreign workers.
Police arrested Alfonso Cesarano, 29, on Monday on suspicion of taking part in the murders, saying that he was already under house arrest for a drug related offence.
The murders would mark a departure for the Casalesi, who have traditionally kept a low profile. A number of arrests and revelations by turncoats have reportedly weakened the clan.
Bosses have also been given unwelcome publicity by Roberto Saviano’s bestseller Gomorra, which was filmed and won the Grand Jury prize at Cannes this year.
Saviano, who is under police protection, made a front page appeal in La Repubblica on Monday to people living under the Casalesi.
“For months and months a group of killers has moved without restraint, massacring innocent people,” he wrote. “How do you feel when you go to work, go for a walk, make love? Do you worry about this, or is it enough to say ‘It was always like this and it will always be like this’?”
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