Italy boosts anti-mafia force after attempt to blow up witness in Puglia

Italy boosts anti-mafia force after attempt to blow up witness in Puglia
The Villa Comunale in Foggia. Photo: Timi Ettore/Wikimedia Commons
Italy's interior ministry said Thursday it was strengthening its anti-mafia task force in Foggia after the increasingly powerful local mob tried for the second time to blow up a key trial witness.
Minister Luciana Lamorgese's office said she was sending extra police forces to the southern province in the Puglia region, the heartland of the Sacra Corona Unita (SCU), and opening a special office of organised crime investigators.
 
 
Thursday's attack targeted a home for the elderly run by a cooperative managed in part by Christian Vigilante, a witness in a major trial against alleged mobsters, according to local police reports. No-one was injured.
   
“The state, and citizens of Foggia, will not be cowed,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Twitter. “Investigators are already at work, and we will not give respite to those who think they can use violence to banish legality, freedom and justice. We will win this battle together.” 
 
The explosion followed a bomb attack two weeks ago which destroyed Vigilante's car and damaged six others.
   
The first attempt on Vigilante's life prompted around 20,000 people to march through Foggia in a protest organised by anti-mafia group Libera.  “We will not back down in the face of yet another bombing, but will move forward even more forcefully,” it said Thursday.
   
The bombings came swiftly on the heels of the year's first murder: a 50-year old shot in his car by gunmen on a scooter.
Lamorgese said she was “utterly determined” to wrench back control of the territory from the mob, and said she was counting on “the mobilisation of all civil society… to respond to criminal attacks without fear”.
   
The Foggia crime syndicate is a branch of the SCU that set up shop in the 1980s.
   
It remained under the radar for several years, quietly extending its reach until some 80 percent of local businesses are now believed by police to pay protection money, according to Italian anti-mafia author Roberto Saviano.
   
The Sacra Corona Unita is commonly known as Italy's “fourth mafia”, coming in behind the historic Cosa Nostra in Sicily, and the immensely powerful 'Ndrangheta in Calabria and Camorra in Naples.
   
It was formed in the 1970s and specialised in gunrunning and drug trafficking, investigators say, with links to international crime organisations.

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