Mafia hitmen chased a rival gangster into a nursery school in northern Naples and shot him dead while four-year-olds were singing Christmas carols just yards away, it has emerged.
Even battle-weary citizens of the area’s bloody Camorra drug wars were horrified by the latest killing. Within minutes of the hit on Tuesday morning, panic-stricken parents arrived at the school clamouring to see if their children were safe.
After the killers fled the children were led to safety by teachers. “We were practising songs for the Christmas recital,” said a teacher at the Eugenio Montale pre-school. “We took them out through a back door and they didn’t see the body.”
The victim, Luigi Lucenti, 50, had a criminal record for drugs offences and extortion and was considered to be close to the Abbinate family of the Naples Mafia.
He was first attacked outside his nearby home in the crime-ridden Scampia district. He fled and sought refuge in the grounds of the nursery school. But one of the two masked assailants followed him in and killed him with several more shots just feet away from the main door before both attackers sped away on a scooter – a classic execution method for Camorra hitmen.
As The Independent reported last month, 160 innocent people have already been caught in the crossfire between feuding Naples mobsters in the past 30 years. In the past 12 months there has been an upsurge in the number of killings in the drug-riddled north of the city.
Local parents said they were fearful for their children. One mother interviewed outside the school told waiting television reporters: “We’re really frightened to bring our children back. We shouldn’t let these things affect us. But it’s very hard.”
Today, only four out of the school’s 80 children turned up. “We didn’t really expect anything else,” said head teacher Enzo Montesano. “But some mothers said that things might change tomorrow – I really hope so. Other parents protested that the outer gates should always be closed… but the school cannot be turned into a prison.”
A battle for one of Europe’s biggest drug markets – thought to be worth over €100m a year, in the Scampia and neighbouring Secondigliano and Miano districts – is behind the latest wave of violence .
The combatants are members of the Camorra group known as the Scissionisti – the seccessionists – who broke away from the northern-Naples Di Lauro ruling clan in 2004.
Now, younger Scissionisti are fighting amongst themselves as well as continuing hostilities with the Di Lauro faction and the body count is rising.