Investigators examine video footage for clues to apparent mob killing in Germany

16th August 2007, Comments 0 comments

BERLIN (AP) – German police pored over video surveillance footage Thursday as they and Italian investigators searched for clues as to who gunned down six Italian men, a possible reprisal for a Christmas slaying that was part of a feud between organized crime clans.

BERLIN (AP) – German police pored over video surveillance footage Thursday as they and Italian investigators searched for clues as to who gunned down six Italian men, a possible reprisal for a Christmas slaying that was part of a feud between organized crime clans.

The six, ages 16 to 38, were killed in a hail of bullets early Wednesday morning after they left the Da Bruno restaurant in Duisburg, where they had celebrated the 18th birthday of one of the victims. All suffered gunshot wounds to the head.

Surveillance footage from the area was being evaluated to see if it would produce any images that could be helpful in the investigation, said police spokesman Reinhard Pape. However, he said it was taking longer than expected to go through the footage because it all has to be enhanced.

"The quality is bad," he said.

The slayings in Duisburg, an industrial city in Germany's Ruhr region, marked the first time a southern Italian crime syndicate has exported a vendetta, according to Italian officials.

The syndicate, known as the 'ndrangheta, is based in Italy's Calabria region, linked to crime around the world, and today considered even more dangerous than the Sicilian Mafia.

Police in Calabria said the slayings were the latest chapter in a feud that erupted in 1991, after members of one 'ndrangheta clan threw eggs at members of another during Carnival celebrations. It has now seen 15 killings, including Wednesday's.

The dispute, which pitted the Nirta-Strangio families against the Pelle-Romeo families, cooled between 2000 and 2006, but erupted again when the wife of a presumed head of one clan, Maria Strangio, was killed at Christmas, according to Luciano Rindona, police commissioner of Bovalino, which covers the town where the conflict originated.

Italian news agency ANSA reported Italian investigators are looking into the theory that 25-year-old victim Marco Marmo – believed by the Nirta-Strangio families to be responsible for the Christmas killing – was the main target in Duisburg.

An anti-Mafia investigator in Rome, Carmelo Petralia, said the hypothesis was likely but he could not confirm the identity of any presumed targets.

"We think that one of the victims was also involved in the earlier murder," Petralia told The Associated Press. He also said investigators were looking at additional motives, including the possible involvement of economic interests.

The 'ndrangheta is involved in drug trafficking and extortion rackets.

Interpol investigators sent from Rome have arrived in Duisburg and were assisting German investigators Thursday, Pape said.

Anti-Mafia investigators were meeting in Reggio Calabria, the regional capital, to coordinate the investigation.

There, regional anti-Mafia investigator Francesco Gratteri said investigators were trying to determine the role of the Christmas killing in the Duisburg slayings, ANSA reported.

Police have been deployed in San Luca, the town at the center of the feud, to try to prevent reprisals.

"Obviously there is a plan to prevent reprisals in such cases. But experience also shows us that reactions can come years after, and that they almost never happen the following days," Petralia said.

Petralia said it is not surprising that such a reprisal occurred during the traditionally quiet August vacation period, when people's defenses would be down.

He also said that it is possible that the date of the Italian holiday of Ferr'Agosto – the Catholic Assumption holiday that marks the height of the Italian vacation season – was chosen as a symbolic response to the Christmas murder.

In Germany, police said the victims – all of whom appeared to have been unarmed – were all of Italian heritage. Three had been living in Duisburg, one was from nearby Muelheim and two were visiting from Italy.

They all were involved in running the Da Bruno restaurant, where ANSA said victim Tommaso Venturi had just celebrated his 18th birthday with the others: Francesco Pergola, 21, and his younger brother Marco Pergola, 19; Sebastiano Strangio, 38; the 16-year-old, and Marmo. ANSA did not identify the 16-year-old, but German police released his name as Francesco G.

A witness saw two men fleeing the area. Investigators appealed to anyone else who may have information to come forward.

AP

Subject: German news

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