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New mafia boss and 45 suspected mobsters arrested in Sicily

Police swooped as the 80-year-old was about to be officially anointed as new head of the Cosa Nostra.

New mafia boss and 45 suspected mobsters arrested in Sicily
Settimino Mineo (C), jeweller and new head of the Sicilian mafia, as he left a police station today. Photo: Alessandro Fucarini/AFP

Italian police have arrested new Cosa Nostra boss Settimino Mineo and dozens of other suspects in a major operation, officials said today.

Police arrested 80-year-old Mineo in Palermo, Sicily just before he was due to be officially anointed at a reconvened Mafia Commission, or Cupola, police said.

45 other suspects are being held on charges of extortion, illegal gun possession, arson, Mafia association and other crimes, investigators said.

Settimino Mineo being escorted by carabinieri as he left a police station today. Photo: Alessandro Fucarini/AFP

The Sicilian Mafia had managed to rebuild the Cupola after it had not met for years, Italian media reported – which was taken as a sign that the Sicilian clans had chosen to return to the structure of the past.

The Cupola met in May for the first time since 1993 and was due to appoint Mineo official heir to notorious Mafia boss Toto Riina who died in prison last  year.

Police also arrested three other Cupola members in the swoop. The four senior Mafia leaders had all recently served prison time for their activities.

A police video shared by Italian media showed the scale of yesterday’s anti-mafia operation.

Italian media reported that police obtained crucial information by tapping the phone of one of the senior arrested members, Francesco Colletti.

He reportedly told his driver about details of the May 29 Cupola meeting, describing it as “a beautiful meeting, very serious, with country people, old people.”

It remains a mystery where the Cupola meeting took place, but Colletti's conversation with his driver implicated Mineo and others.

Colletti reportedly rejoiced in the resurrected Cupola, which was to be an improvement on Riina's “tyranny”.

“We all got up and kissed,” Colletti reportedly said of the end of the meeting.

Lifelong Mafia member Mineo was arrested as part of investigations by judge and prosecutor Giovanni Falcone in 1984 and imprisoned for five years.

Mineo was rearrested in 2006 and imprisoned for another 11 years.

Mineo survived a 1992 ambush that killed his brother Giuseppe, around six months after another brother, Antonino, was murdered outside the family.

“Police in Palermo have arrested 46 members of the mafia. They had replaced Totò Riina with Settimo Mineo to revive Cosa Nostra, but the state won. They will never give up – us neither!” wrote Nicola Morra, president of the Parliamentary Anti-Mafia Commission, on Twitter.

 

Meanwhile, Palermo’s local government decided yesterday to rename roads, streets and squares in honour of 48 victims of mafia on the island.

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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

Elections: Italy’s Lampedusa residents ‘left behind’ by migration focus

Italy's politicians are visiting Lampedusa to promise an end to migrant arrivals, but many living on the island say their other concerns go unheard.

Elections: Italy's Lampedusa residents 'left behind' by migration focus

“It’s just words, words,” complains Pino D’Aietti, who like many residents of the tiny island of Lampedusa feels abandoned by Italy’s politicians – except when a surge in migrant arrivals makes the headlines.

The 78-year-old retired plumber is sitting outside a restaurant on the island, where anti-immigration leader Matteo Salvini has spent the past two days as part of his campaign for upcoming elections on September 25th.

Located between Sicily and Tunisia, Lampedusa is known for its beaches and turquoise waters, but also as the landing point for thousands of migrants on boats from north Africa.

On Thursday, Salvini visited the island’s migrant reception centre where as many as 1,500 mostly young men were packed in a facility meant for 350.

But while the League leader makes immigration the cornerstone of his election campaign, there is a sense of disillusionment here; an island of just 6,000 residents out in the middle of the Mediterranean.

READ ALSO: Italy to choose ‘Europe or nationalism’ at election, says PD leader

“We have the most expensive fuel, the (water) purifier hasn’t worked for a long time, there is no hospital,” railed D’Aietti, as tourists in swimsuits browsed shops nearby.

“We are spare parts. When the tourists go, the rubbish we eat! It’s disgusting. And who defends us?”

League Leader Matteo Salvini enjoys a boat ride while visiting the southern Italian Pelagie Island of Lampedusa for his election campaign on August 5th, 2022. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

The lack of healthcare is a recurrent theme.

“We have specialists and that’s it. For anything else we have to go onto the mainland,” said 58-year-old Maria Garito.

Mayor Filippo Mannino admits healthcare is a problem, but tells AFP: “The municipality has limited means, it is up to the state to take charge.”

READ ALSO: Russia denies interfering in Italy’s elections

He has also called for more help from Rome – and the European Union – to help manage the number of migrants, which often becomes unmanageable in the summer months when calmer seas cause a surge in new arrivals.

Not far from the town hall, at the end of an isolated road, is the so-called hotspot, the immigration reception centre.

It is protected by steel gates, but those inside can be seen whiling away the hours in a few shady spots.

The government last week agreed to lay on a special ferry to transfer migrants three times a week to Sicily, and AFP reporters this week saw hundreds boarding a boat.

People at a migrant processing centre on the island of Lampedusa on August 4th, 2022. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

Few get to sample the delights of Lampedusa – unlike Salvini, who was pictured in his swimsuit in a pleasure boat off the island on Friday.

Although the locals prefer not to talk about migrants, prejudice is an issue here.

Ibrahima Mbaye, a 43-year-old Senegalese man who arrived here on a French visa three years ago, said “there are good people but half the people are racist, you feel it”.

He has been working as a fisherman, but says it has not been easy – and nor is it for those who arrive illegally.

“They think that Italy is their future, but when they arrive they’re disappointed. They understand that it’s not easy to earn money,” he told AFP.

As for the tourists on holiday on Lampedusa, many are either unaware or willing to turn a blind eye.

“We read about it in the newspapers but we really don’t feel it,” said fifty-something Dino, who has been coming here every summer for ten years.

The two faces of Lampedusa “are two separate things”, he adds.

By AFP’s Clément Melki

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