Italian police nab in mafioso linked to ‘Duisburg massacre’

19th September 2008, Comments 0 comments

Officials say suspect being treated at a hospital under an assumed name.

Pavia, Italy -- Italian police have arrested a mafia boss suspected of ordering a 2006 Christmas Day killing that triggered a series of revenge attacks by rival mobsters, allegedly including the so-called 2007 "Duisburg Massacre" in Germany.

The 32-year-old Francesco Pelle was being treated at a medical clinic in the northern city of Pavia when police picked him up on Wednesday night, news reports said. He had registered under a false name.

Pelle, a leading member of the Pelle-Vottari crime family of the 'Ngrangheta, the Calabrian version of the mafia, lost the use of his legs in a July 2006 murder attempt.

On Dec. 25, 2006, Maria Strangio, wife of 'Ndrangheta boss Giovanni Luca Nirta was shot dead and three other people, including a five-year-old boy, were injured in an attack allegedly ordered by Pelle.

The cycle of vendetta attacks continued in Calabria, the heartland of the 'Ndrangheta, but apparently also expanded abroad with the August 2007 murder of six Italians in Duisburg.

The dead, who were gunned down near an Italian restaurant in the German city, were allegedly linked with the Pelle-Vottari family, making them targets of the rival Nirta-Strangio clan.

In a separate and apparently unrelated operation more than 200 mafia suspects were arrested Wednesday in an international operation conducted by authorities in Italy, the United States, Mexico, Panama and Guatemala.

The bust included the arrests -- six in the US and 10 in Calabria -- of alleged members of another 'Ndrangheta crime family, the Aquino-Coluccio.

Authorities also seized more than 15 tons of cocaine and $57 million in cash, the statement said.

Authorities believe that the Aquino-Coluccio clan-members based in Italy, the United States and Latin America, controlled a large cocaine-smuggling ring together with the so-called Cartel del Golfo (Gulf Cartel), a Mexican drug trafficking organization.

A major breakthrough in the investigation came when 'Ndrangheta boss Giuseppe Coluccio -- one of Italy's top 30 most-wanted criminals -- was arrested in Toronto and extradited to Italy in August.

Far less known than the notorious Cosa Nostra, the 'Ndrangheta has grown in recent years to expand its activities beyond its heartland in Calabria, the "toe" of boot-shaped Italy, to as far afield as North and South American and Australia.


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