Village lives in fear amid "pointless mafia war"

16th August 2007, Comments 0 comments

Ferragosto (The Feast of the Assumption) is when Catholics believe that the Virgin Mary was assumed bodily into Heaven and is the biggest holiday of the Italian year. But while Romans, the Milanese and the Florentines were heading to the beach and or

 An Italian television crew visiting the village to interview relatives about the six locals who were killed in the German city of Duisburg were met by empty streets and silence.

"San Luca has become a ghost town," Ansa news agency reported.

San Luca's 4,000 souls are utterly terrified: they fear retaliation, revenge or a fresh outbreak of violence. For 16 years, a mafia feud between the Strangio-Nirta and Pelle-Romeo clans has been raging, resulting in the deaths of 20 people so far.

But never before in the history of the 'Ndrangheta, as the mafia in the southern region of Calabria is known, have six young men been "executed" at the same time.

"Everyone is afraid that there will be a chain reaction," a spokesman for the official RAI television network said.

A chain reaction

That is why on the day after Ferragosto, San Luca looks like the high-security wing of a prison: large numbers of carabinieri and special police units are checking everyone entering the village and patrolling the streets. "This is how every attempt by the Vottari- Pelle group to find an explanation for the massacre has been nipped in the bud," one journalist wrote.

It seems more and more likely that a 25-year-old identified as Marco M was the killers' main target. He is believed to belong to the Vottari-Pelle clan, like the five other victims, ranging in age from 16 to 38.

The Strangio-Nirta families believe that Marco M is the chief culprit in the murder of Maria Strangio, wife of the former clan head Giovanni Nirta, who was killed in December. Four people have been killed in revenge attacks since then and 21 Kalashnikov shots were fired as a warning at a house in which six families lived.

Throwing eggs

How did the feud that has the people of San Luca living in fear start? As is so often the case with mafia clans, the beginnings of the dispute are negligible: the two families threw eggs at each other at a carnival in 1991. The seemingly harmless joke soon snowballed into bloody conflict. A few days after the carnival, two people were lured into an ambush and murdered, which set the years of feuding off. "This is a pointless war," one television reporter said.

There have been occasions when the two sides have declared a form of truce, but this seems to have been irrevocably shattered.

In addition to the revenge attacks, the clans are also involved in drug-dealing and the control of certain territories.

There does not seem to be an end in sight for the people of San Luca, as once the summer is over and the police have stopped their checks, the 'Ndrangheta's next victim is inevitable.

16 August 2007 

Copyright DPA with Expatica

Subject: German news, Italy, mafia

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