60 Mafia suspects held

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CATANIA (AFP) - At least 60 people were arrested yesterday in a huge swoop on Mafia suspects launched at dawn in the eastern Sicilian city of Catania, police said. About 1,000 police fanned out through the city with 156 arrest warrants in what was called 'Operation Big Dipper'.

Police gave few initial details, but the local magistrate's office described the operation as an attempt to crack down on some of the city's most dangerous organised crime figures.

Some of the suspects served with warrants are already in prison, including Benedetto Santapaola, the notorious Catania clan chief, and his right-hand man, Giuseppe Pulvirenti, both arrested last spring after 10 years on the run, and Giuseppe Madonia, once considered the number two Mafia boss in Sicily. Among those arrested was one of Santapaola's sons, Francesco, though another son managed to flee.

This was the latest operation in a crackdown on mob crime since the murder last year of the anti-Mafia judge Giovanni Falcone.