Pubdate: 3 Jan 1999
Source: Reuters
Copyright: 1999 Reuters Limited.
Author: Philip Pullella


ROME, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Investigators said on Sunday that the worst
Mafia-style massacre in Italy in eight years was probably related to a
clash among crime clans for control of drug trafficking in Sicily.

They said they feared the shootings in Sicily on Saturday night could
signal the start of a new war among crime clans in the southeast of the
island after a period of relative peace.

Five men in their 20s and 30s were mowed down in a hail of gunfire by two
men who burst into a bar of a petrol station on Saturday night.

The gunmen opened fire as the victims were drinking coffee and reading
newspapers in the bar on a road in southeastern Sicily. They later fled in
a car driven by an accomplice.

Police said at least three of the men had previous criminal records. It was
still not clear if the other two dead men were members of crime clans or
innocent witnesses killed because they had seen the gunmen.

The owner of the bar hid behind the counter and was not hurt.

The killing was the top item on Italian media, with newspapers and
television running pictures and footage of the bodies lying in pools of
blood on the bar floor.

Investigators said the massacre may have been the local Mafia's way of
punishing a group of young upstarts trying to muscle in on the crime
group's control of drug trafficking.

"This massacre is a sign showing the strength and ferocity of the Mafia,"
said Ottaviano Del Turco, president of Italy's parliamentary anti-Mafia

The killing was the worst in Sicily since eight people were shot dead in
the city of Gela in 1990.

The victims were believed to be members of a clan of the Carbonaro and
Dominante families, who are locked in a struggle with other area families
for control of lucrative drug rackets.

"This could be seen as a lesson meted out to those who believed they could
raise their heads and move about undisturbed because many Mafia bosses in
this area are either in jail or on the run," said Giovanni Tinebra, an
anti-Mafia magistrate from the town of Caltanissetta.

Italian police have scored many successes against the crime group since
1992, when the Mafia killed judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino
and their bodyguards in twin bomb attacks.

Those Mafia outrages sparked a crackdown that led to the arrest of the
Mafia's "boss of bosses" Salvatore "Toto" Riina in 1993 after nearly a
quarter of a century on the run.

Since Riina's arrest, a number of his top lieutenants who had been on the
run with him, including his brother-in-law Leoluca Bagarella, were also
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