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Killing of Italian Politician Spurs Crackdown on Crime in Europe

Dozens of arrests have been carried out across Europe in a crackdown on organized crime after the killing of a politician in the Calabria region of southern Italy. Meanwhile, Italian politicians are reacting to a statement by the new national anti-Mafia prosecutor that the country's top mafia boss, a fugitive for 40 years, has been protected by politicians and police officials.

Italian police say over 50 people across Europe have been arrested for drug trafficking as part of an investigation into an international network managed by the crime syndicate known as 'ndrangheta, based in the southern region of Calabria.

The two-day operation led to arrests in Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Serbia-Montenegro. Searches turned up more than 45 kilograms of cocaine.

Police commander Gianpaolo Ganzer says that for many years international cocaine trafficking has been a prerogative of the 'ndrangheta criminal organization.

Authorities say the n'drangheta is today considered Italy's most dangerous and powerful crime group, having overtaken the Sicilian Mafia. The arrests were a response to the killing last Sunday of the vice president of Calabria's regional government.

Investigations into the killing of the center-left politician are still under way but the 'ndragneta is believed to have been responsible.

Italy's interior minister Giuseppe Pisanu says he is sending more specialized forces to Calabria.

"We see the 'ndrangheta," Mr. Pisanu said, "as a major crime multinational which has its historical base in Calabria."

He added that this would not be a temporary response, but a commitment that will last until the crime syndicate has been defeated.

Meanwhile politicians reacted to comments by the new national anti-Mafia prosecutor, Pietro Grasso, that Italian politicians and police officials have been protecting top Mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano and that is why he is still on the run after four decades.

Mr. Grasso said people from various professions, politicians, businessmen and police officials have been covering up for the mafia boss, allowing him to remain a fugitive.

Justice Minister Roberto Castelli said the anti-Mafia prosecutor must explain his comments. But Mr. Grasso said there was nothing new in his remarks. Politicians are divided among those who think the prosecutor's statements were brave and those who say they were surprised and feel further clarification is needed.