Source: Scotsman (UK)
Copyright: The Scotsman Publications Ltd
Pubdate: 4 Jan 1999
Author: Philip Pullella, In Rome


INVESTIGATORS said yesterday that the worst Mafia-style massacre in Italy
in eight years was probably related to a clash 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 south-east of the
island after a period of relative peace.

Five men in their 20s and 30s were mowed down in a burst of at least 40
bullets by two men who burst into a bar at a petrol station on Saturday night.

The gunmen opened fire as the victims were drinking coffee and reading
newspapers in the bar in south-eastern Sicily. They fled in a car driven by
an accomplice.

Police said at least three of the victims had previous criminal records. It
was still not clear if the other two dead men, members of the town's
football team, were members of criminal gangs or innocent witnesses killed
because they had seen the gunmen. The owner of the bar hid behind the
counter and was not hurt.

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

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

The provincial police chief, Alfonso Vella, yesterday called on citizens to
come forward and help police. "Rebel, break the wall of omerta [the Mafia
code of silence], help us," he said, according to the ANSA news agency.

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 families for
control of 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 the judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo
Borsellino and their bodyguards in two bomb attacks.

Those 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 top lieutenants who had been on the run
with him have also been arrested. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Mike Gogulski