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Police arrest dozens in major raid on Italy's youngest mafia

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
Police arrest dozens in major raid on Italy's youngest mafia
Early morning raids against Italy's Foggia mafia led to a wave of arrests on Monday. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

Italian police on Monday launched an operation against one the country's most violent mafia groups, leading to arrest warrants for 82 people suspected of drug trafficking and dealing in the southern Puglia region.

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Around 500 police officers carried out early morning raids against suspected members of the Foggia mafia, which operates in and around the southeastern city of the same name.

Italy's youngest mafia has a stranglehold over the vast southeastern province of Foggia, cementing its control over the local population through extortion carried out by family-based 'battalions'.

READ ALSO: 'Very violent': How Italy’s youngest mafia is terrorising the Puglia region

Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi hailed the operation as a "very strong blow against the Foggia mafia, one of the most dangerous and violent criminal organisations".

Warrants were issued for 81 people to go to jail and another to house arrest, police said in a statement, although it was not clear whether some suspects were already incarcerated.

The investigation that led to Monday's "Game Over" operation reconstructed how funds derived from extorting the local population contributed to a so-called "common fund" to pay mafia associates and those in prison.

A monopoly on the sale of cocaine in Foggia guaranteed through the threat of "armed retaliation" reaped profits of at least 200,000 euros ($222,000) a month for the mafia, police said.

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Crime in Foggia, which currently has Italy's third-highest homicide rate, was discounted for decades by authorities more focused on the mafias of Sicily, Calabria and Campania.

Sometimes referred to as the "Fourth Mafia," the organised crime group has now finally caught the attention of authorities, who have put some of the group's ringleaders behind bars in recent years.

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