Italian authorities arrested 35 people in a series of raids against suspected mafia members, police said on Tuesday, as they stepped up the hunt for the country's most-wanted fugitive.
This operation is part of a broader investigation aimed at capturing Matteo Messina Denaro — a boss of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra mafia — who has been on the run since 1993, Carabinieri police said in a statement.
The raids (which used police helicopter teams) focused on alleged mafia members in the area of Trapani, a city in western Sicily, and led to the arrest of people suspected of criminal conspiracy, extortion and gambling, among other offences.
Messina Denaro was still able to issue commands relating to the way the mafia was run in the area — his regional stronghold — despite his long disappearance, the police said.
The operation, which targeted 70 people in total, involved searches and asset seizures from the other suspects, the Carabinieri added.
Messina Denaro has been sentenced, in absentia, to a life term for his role in the 1992 murders of anti-mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. He also faces a life sentence for his role in bomb attacks at Florence, Rome and Milan, which killed 10 people the following year.
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