Italy: Mafia leader dies in hospital

Rome, 4 Nov. (AKI) - One of Italy's most powerful mafia leaders has died in hospital in the southern region of Calabria. Antonio Pelle, 77, was nicknamed 'Ntoni Gambazza', and was considered one of the most senior leaders of the Calabrian mafia or 'Ndrangheta, in the area of San Luca on Italy's southern tip.

Pelle had been sentenced to 16 years' in prison for kidnapping, drug trafficking and mafia association and he was on the list of Italy's 30 most wanted criminals.

Pelle was released from prison on Tuesday because of declining health and returned home.

His condition reportedly deteriorated during the night and he was transferred to hospital where he died early on Wednesday.

Pelle, considered one of the senior leaders of the San Luca clan aligned with the Vottari family, had been on the run since 2000 until his arrest in June this year.

The Pelle-Vottari and the Nirta-Strangio have been engaged in a brutal feud that climaxed in the massacre of six men in the German city of Duisburg in August 2007.

San Luca, a town of about 4,500, was the focal point of a bitter feud between the rival 'Ndrangheta clans.

The feud dates back to an egg-throwing incident in 1991, when a fight broke out that left two young men dead and two injured.

The Calabria-based 'Ndrangheta has become one of the most powerful criminal organisations in Italy, with the expansion of its international drug trafficking activities in Europe and other parts of the world.


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