A cold-blooded execution in broad daylight in a busy Rome street – the sixth in just a month – has confirmed fears that the capital is facing a vicious turf war between rival organised crime factions.
The re-emerging spectre of the notorious Magliana gang appears to be at the centre of the violence, after it was revealed that the dead man, 33-year-old Flavio Simmi, had links to the organisation, which was a byword for brutality in its 1980s heyday.
Mr Simmi was shot nine times by an assailant on a motor scooter as he got out of his car on Tuesday morning to examine a burst tyre on his car while driving in Rome's Prati district.
Travelling with Mr Simmi, his wife Paola Petti, who works in the press office of the Prime Minister's official Palazzo Chigi residence, escaped unhurt.
The Magliana gang was behind the kidnapping and murder in 1983 of the daughter of a Vatican official. Her body was thrown into a cement mixer.
She had been abducted, it is believed, on the behest of Turkish extremists, who wanted to use her as a bargaining tool to win release of Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who tried to kill Pope John Paul II in 1981.
It was thought the group had withered away after the jailing and deaths of senior members.
Experts writing in Italian newspapers yesterday suggested the upsurge in violence was due to younger elements in the Magliana gang fighting over the drug trade, or possibly because of conflict between the re-emerging Roman gangsters and members of southern mafia groups such as 'Nrangheta, which have a strong presence in the city.
Rome's mayor, Gianni Alemanno, called for a meeting with interior minister Roberto Maroni, and said that the capital, "could not be allowed become a Wild West theatre of violence".