Angry Sicilian officials quit over Mafia killing

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PALERMO - Leading Sicilian officials and judges resigned yesterday over the killing of Judge Paolo Borsellino, as hundreds of anti-Mafia protesters jostled government leaders at his bodyguards' state funeral. Hundreds of demonstrators, including off-duty police, heckled President Oscar Scalfaro, the Prime Minister, Giuliano Amato, and Vincenzo Parisi, the police chief, as they arrived at Palermo cathedral for the funeral of Mr Borsellino's five bodyguards.

Mr Borsellino, who was killed along with his bodyguards by a car-bomb on Sunday, was the second magistrate to be murdered by the Mafia in Sicily in recent months. Giovanni Falcone, his wife and three of their bodyguards were murdered in May.

Aldo Rizzo, a magistrate who was elected Mayor of Palermo on 30 June, said he was resigning out of a sense of 'moral revolt' and solidarity with the local judiciary and police, who had been dealt a body blow by the killing.

Vittorio Teresi, Sicily's deputy public prosecutor in Palermo, later said he was resigning along with six or seven colleagues. Mr Teresi told reporters there was too big an imbalance between the personal risks to magistrates and the results of investigations into organised crime. 'We run the risk of dying without having got any results on the judicial level,' he said.

He called for the resignations of the Interior Minister, and of Sicily's police chief and the prefect of Palermo because they had failed to protect Mr Borsellino.

Both the beginning and the end of the funeral ceremony were disturbed by scuffles between the anti-Mafia protesters and security forces. The demonstrators evaded police to reach the cathedral and shouted slogans against politicians whom they blame for failing to fight organised crime. 'Politicians out,' they shouted, calling them 'buffoons' and 'assassins'.

Police colleagues of the dead bodyguards objected to the presence of politicians at yesterday's funeral, and several hundred of them demostrated their anger in the streets of Palermo.

President Scalfaro attended the funeral in a private capacity. Mr Borsellino had worked for him when he was interior minister. He entered the cathedral 15 minutes late and walked up the nave surrounded by several bodyguards as Cardinal Salvatore Pappalardo, the Archbishop of Palermo, was delivering his sermon.

Emotions ran high during the services. One of the police guards' widows went up to the altar and reproached the Cardinal for suggesting that the Mafia should be allowed to repent and be forgiven.

No date was set for the funeral of Mr Borsellino. His family wants a 'strictly private' service and is awaiting the return of one of his daughters, who was on holiday in Indonesia when he was killed.

Meanwhile in Rome the Italian government decided to send police reinforcements to Sicily to help in the murder inquiry, as well as soldiers to reinforce security, official sources said. More than 2,000 uniformed and plainclothes police, paramilitary police and financial investigators have arrived in Sicily or are on their way.

Much of Italy came to a halt yesterday for a 10-minute symbolic strike from 11am in tribute to Mr Borsellino and his bodyguards. The stoppage, called by three large trade unions, suspended work at many government service counters, shops and factories. The Milan stock exchange halted trading, Rome police stopped traffic and television stations broadcast a message explaining the temporary suspension of programmes.

WASHINGTON - The FBI said yesterday that it had offered to help the Italian government to find the murderers of Mr Borsellino and his bodyguards, Reuter reports.

(Photograph omitted)