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Naples Embroiled in Escalating Mob Wars Over Drug Trade


Once again a mob war has erupted in Naples. More than 100 people have been killed since the start of the year. But in the past 10 days the number of killings has escalated significantly, forcing the government to take action.

Rival clans of the camorra, the Naples mafia, are fighting for control. And this time it is a violent war, just like it was in the 1980s when hundreds were killed in the streets of Naples. The present conflict pits a fugitive boss, Paolo Di Lauro, against former members of his organization who have formed a splinter group.

Vito Faenza, a journalist at the Corriere del Mezzogiorno in Naples has been reporting camorra killings for more than three decades.

This war erupted over drug trafficking, he said. Those who were supposed to sell the drugs did not pay for them.

Mr. Faenza spoke of the huge profits reaped from drug trafficking that are made in Naples by camorra bosses. He said the current violent turf war between rival clans is for control of the drug market and added Naples has become a drug supermarket, with a vast choice.

Scampia is one of the impoverished neighborhoods on the outskirts of Naples where the killings are taking place. The latest man to be killed was 30-years old and was shot near his home Sunday in a drive-by shooting.

In another recent incident, two men wearing motorcycle helmets walked into a food store and fired four bullets into the shopowner's head. But as is usual around here, no one saw anything. Pasquale Errico is the local police chief.

In these killings, he said, we find it very difficult to find witnesses or people who will come forward to say something.

Mr. Errico adds it is also not easy to explain how the victims are being selected. Most of those killed recently had no criminal record and investigators say a link between them and the clans is not immediately apparent.

Magistrate Giovanni Corona is responsible for the investigations into the latest killings.

There are few reasons to explain how the subjects killed in this war are chosen. The victim may be a relative or may know them or may have some connection, which has led to his involvement.

As the number of killings increased, Italy's Interior Minister, Giuseppe Pisanu sent 325 extra police officers to Naples and vowed to fight the camorra blow by blow. But many in Naples feel the camorra cannot be defeated unless social development policies are implemented.

Father Luigi Merola is a young priest in one of the more difficult neighborhoods in Naples. He is forced to live with 24-hour police protection because of death threats after he reported drug pushers to the police.

If the state is present, there is a civil society, but when there is no state, Father Merola says, we have illegality.

Father Merola says people live in fear and do not feel protected. This fuels an environment where camorra clans can flourish.

The more than 50 percent unemployment rate in some parts of Naples makes it easy for camorra clans to recruit young people who have nowhere else to turn.

To complicate matters, the national anti-mafia chief, Pier Luigi Vigna, has said he believes there are links between members of the camorra and Islamic terrorists. Investigations into these links are under way. Mr. Vigna has said that drug trafficking contributes to the financing of international terrorism.

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