Italian police collar top Mafia man

Italian police on Monday arrested Salvatore lo Piccolo, who is suspected to have become the new head of the Sicilian Mafia following the 2006 arrest of the former ”boss of bosses” Bernardo Provenzano.

In a morning operation, about 40 police officers surrounded and then raided a villa near the Sicilian capital, Palermo, in which they found Lo Piccolo, his son Sandro and two other wanted mafiosi.

Police fired in the air several warning shots as they moved in against the mafiosi, who were all armed but apparently did not put up a fight, news reports said.

Sandro lo Piccolo shouted ”I love you dad!” several times as he was being handcuffed, the reports said.

Scores of ordinary citizens — some cheering, others shouting abuse against the mafiosi — crowded around as police lead the four inside Palermo’s main police station in the early afternoon.

The grey-haired Salvatore lo Piccolo (65), sporting a short beard and wearing a dark leather jacket over a light blue shirt, seemed impassive as police — many wearing masks in order not to be identified — pushed and shoved onlookers to make their way into the building.

”We are very happy for the latest blow against Cosa Nostra, in particular against the heir of Bernardo Provenzano,” Palermo’s police chief, Giuseppe Caruso, said.

The villa in Giardinello where the four were caught had been under surveillance for the past two months, Caruso said in an interview with private television news channel Sky TG24.

He said Lo Piccolo, who has been on the run for about 25 years, used the house not as a hideout but as a meeting place. Inside police recovered eight pistols and several documents.

Prime Minister Romano Prodi in a statement praised police for the ”brilliant achievement”.

Investigators suspect that Lo Piccolo, who is wanted on murder and drug-trafficking charges and had long been Palermo’s most powerful boss, took over as ”Capo di tutti i Capi [boss of bosses]” after Provenzano’s arrest in April 2006.

In particular, Lo Piccolo is believed to have strengthened the links between the Sicilian and American Mafia.

His son Sandro is also accused of being a leading Mafia member, while the other two men arrested were identified as Andrea Adamo and Gaspare Pulizzi, both wanted Mob suspects. — Sapa-dpa

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