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Italy Arrests Chief Mafia Boss


Italian police have arrested the man considered to be the new boss of the Sicilian Mafia. Salvatore Lo Piccolo had been on the run for more than 20 years. He was picked up with his son and two other men near the Sicilian capital, Palermo. Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome.

All four men arrested by Italian police in Palermo were among Italy's top 30 most wanted Mafia suspects. And the arrest of the kingpin of the the Sicilian Mafia, Salvatore Lo Piccolo, was hailed by Italian law enforcement.

The 65-year-old was sentenced to life in prison for murder and had been on the run since 1983. Investigators considered him the new boss of bosses of the Sicilian Mafia, after the arrest Salvatore Provenzano in 2006.

Police carried out a morning raid on a house outside the Sicilian capital Palermo, where the men were meeting. Officials said the four men arrested were Mafia chiefs who exercise immense power over the territory they control. In Palermo, where many residents are forced to pay protection money to the mafia, a crowd celebrated the arrests outside police headquarters.

Prime Minister Romano Prodi hailed the arrests as "a success for the state and for all honest citizens."

The head of the Italian parliament's anti-Mafia committee, Francesco Forgione, said the arrests were a big blow to the Mafia in Sicily. He added that the Lo Piccolos were linked to U.S. crime syndicates.

Forgione said the Lo Piccolos were involved in restructuring the Mafia after the arrest of Provenzano and were organizing the return of bosses who escaped to the United States. He charged they were go-betweens with the American Mafia and were involved in large financial and business investment.

He added that it was a huge blow but one must never lower one's guard because the Mafia has an incredible ability to re-generate itself.

Investigators believe Lo Piccolo emerged from a power struggle within the Mafia. Prosecutors say Lo Piccolo had been vying to become the Sicilian Mafia's unchallenged top boss with another fugitive, Matteo Messina Denaro, a younger boss from western Sicily.

Italy's national anti-mafia prosecutor Piero Grasso said Salvatore Lo Piccolo was the only one capable of carrying Provenzano's legacy.

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