Peter Popham: The Mob is unlikely to be running scared

Rome notebook
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The Independent Online

Hold the front page: Italy is at war, and the army has been dispatched. Well actually, as you see, this is nowhere near the front page and the news has been largely ignored by the world's media.

But for Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni, civil war is the right term to describe the Italian state's struggle against the Camorra, the Neapolitan mafia. One week ago Camorra gunmen shot dead six African immigrants at a place called Castelvolturno, a crumbling resort north of Naples. Police claim that the Africans, immigrants from Nigeria, Ghana and Burkina Faso, were small time drug dealers who had been executed for refusing to pay protection money to the Mob.

One brave local reporter on Camorra crimes, whose beat may be the most dangerous in western Europe, was adamant that the killing had nothing to do with drugs. The Africans were massacred in and around a tailoring shop and boutique "It's not a drug dealing centre," she told me firmly the following day. "The drugs are bought and sold at an abandoned hotel 13 kilometres away. Those people had nothing to do with drugs. They were just killed to show who is boss in the territory."

One week on, that truth has become the authorised version. And now the government is sending in the army – 500 troops are to be dispatched to Naples. It follows the government's decision last month to post soldiers around the country to guard government buildings, embassies and the like in place of the Carabinieri.

It was a change of look, but it's hard to know what other difference they'll make. And in Castelvolturno, their role is likely to begin and end at the level of symbolism. The Camorristi are too entrenched – in business and politics as well as crime – to be scared off by a few uniforms.

Tacit public approval?

The last time the Camorra went so publicly into action they burned down a gypsy camp in Naples, to the frank delight of many people living nearby.

Last week's massacre was a lot more drastic than that, but the racist views of local people in Castelvolturno that have been filling Italian papers in recent days leave one with the nasty suspicion that many of them will not have minded that much about the killings.

Dan blamed

What would Dan Brown make of this? In June the Vatican banned the producers of Angels And Demons, a Brown book, from filming inside local churches. On Tuesday a 25-year-old youth, Marco Luzzo, stabbed a priest and three others in a Rome church. He blamed the Da Vinci Code film, which he had seen the night before.