November 13, 2007 / 11:23 AM / 13 years ago

Mafia "commanders" arrested in major Italy swoop

PALERMO, Italy (Reuters) - Italian police on Tuesday said they arrested five high ranking mafia “military commanders” in Sicily and were carrying out warrants against a further 70 suspected mobsters across Italy.

The commanders had reported directly to the Mafia’s new “boss of bosses”, Salvatore Lo Piccolo, before he was arrested on the southern island of Sicily last week after nearly a quarter century on the run, investigative sources said.

Magistrates believe 65-year-old Lo Piccolo, nicknamed “the Baron”, took over the reins of the crime organisation after the arrest last year of former top boss Bernardo Provenzano.

The government says the repeated dismantling of the Cosa Nostra leadership has severely weakened the organisation.

Police say the arrested commanders carried out orders from Lo Piccolo. They are accused of drug trafficking, arms trafficking and extortion.

The Palermo operation coincided with a swoop against Sicily’s Bottaro-Attanasio mob clan that led to arrest warrants against 70 suspected gangsters across Italy, also on charges of extortion and drug trafficking.

“With this operation today, the Bottaro-Attanasio clan in Siracusa can be considered wiped out,” prosecutor Ugo Rossi told Italian media.

Reporting by Wladimir Pantaleone; Writing by Phil Stewart; Editing by Matthew Jones

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