Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Italy Again Hits Mafia amid Signs of a Backlash the Capture of Another Alleged Leader of `Cosa Nostra' Follows a Ruinous Blast in Rome Aimed at a Crusading Journalist

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Italy Again Hits Mafia amid Signs of a Backlash the Capture of Another Alleged Leader of `Cosa Nostra' Follows a Ruinous Blast in Rome Aimed at a Crusading Journalist

Article excerpt

THE Italian state has won another victory against its criminal organizations, just days after a devastating bomb attack in Rome and days before the first anniversary of the murder of popular anti-Mafia judge Giovanni Falcone.

Nitto Santapaola, the reputed boss of the Mafia in Catania, was arrested in a May 18 dawn raid in Mazzarone, Sicily, after more than 10 years in hiding.

Mafia experts identify him as second only to Salvatore Riina in "Cosa Nostra." Mr. Riina, the reputed "boss of bosses" in Palermo, was arrested on Jan. 15.

"It's another hard blow to the Mafia, but it's necessary to continue," Interior Minister Nicola Mancino said after the arrest.

In addition to commenting on the arrest of Mr. Santapaola, Mr. Mancino delivered an official report to Parliament May 18 on the powerful May 14 car-bomb explosion in the fashionable Parioli section of Rome, which was heard more than a mile away. No one killed

At least 50 cars and nearly 40 apartments were damaged in the Via Ruggero Fauro blast, but no one was killed and injuries were relatively minor.

"I thought it was a storm," says Ricardo Carretero, a Spanish psychiatrist and seven-year resident of Rome. He says the windows of his Parioli apartment shook, but that he did not hear the blast, probably because of a hill between his apartment and the blast site.

"The attacks are very dangerous right now," added Mr. Carretero, who hailed the news of Santapaola's arrest. "The Mafia is crumbling; they're desperate."

Mancino told Parliament that the apparent object of the Via Ruggero Fauro blast was Maurizio Costanzo, the host of a popular late-night talk show, which is taped in a theater near the scene of devastation.

Mr. Costanzo's car passed an explosive-laden Fiat Uno just a few seconds before the blast; had his car gone by five seconds later, the television personality would have been hit. Members of Costanzo's escort were injured.

Police artists have created sketches of two men driven to Parioli by a taxi driver, seen by residents in the area before the blast, and later seen again by the taxi driver at Rome's central railway station. The men had Sicilian accents, the taxi driver said. …

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