Italian Mafia 'godfather' Settimo Mineo held in Sicily raid

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image captionSettimo Mineo has been a senior mafioso for decades, authorities say

Italian police have arrested the man said to be the new head of the Sicilian Mafia, along with 45 associates.

The dawn raid in Palermo netted 80-year-old jeweller Settimo Mineo. He was reportedly elected Cosa Nostra godfather at a Mafia meeting in May.

The Mafia suspects are accused of extortion, firearms offences, arson and other crimes.

The Sicilian Mafia - the Cosa Nostra - managed to rebuild its leadership, known as the Cupola, after it had not met for years, reports say. The godfather is also known as the "capo dei capi" - or boss of bosses.

Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini tweeted that it was "an extraordinary intervention" by the Carabinieri (the paramilitary police), "who have dismantled the new 'cupola' of Cosa Nostra".

However, another of Mr Salvini's tweets this morning - discussing the alleged arrest of 15 members of the "Nigerian mafia" in Turin - has drawn criticism.

Turin magistrate Armando Spataro reportedly said that Mr Salvini's message threatened to disrupt the ongoing operation in the city. Moreover, not all those arrested have links to organised crime, and 15 was not the correct number of people arrested, he said in a statement.

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image captionThe Sicilian Mafia raid is seen as a major success for Italy's police

In recent years police have hit the Cosa Nostra network hard. It was long handicapped by the fact that Toto Riina was in jail, but when he died the Mafia moved to rebuild the cupola without taking orders from a "godfather".

Riina was notorious for his brutality. In 1992 two leading prosecutors, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, were blown up in Mafia hits. Six months later Riina was arrested.

'I fell from the clouds'

Mineo allegedly ran Mafia operations in Pagliarelli, a central district in Palermo. Italian media report that he avoided using a mobile phone and preferred to walk rather than travel by car.

Valued by Riina, he survived an ambush back in 1982 in which his brother Giuseppe died. Another brother, Antonino, was shot dead later.

Mineo was arrested in 1984 on the orders of leading prosecutor Giovanni Falcone. Italian daily La Repubblica says he told his interrogators: "I don't know who you're talking about, I fell from the clouds."

Mineo was jailed for five years in a big Mafia trial based on the Falcone investigation.

In 1992, Falcone and another top prosecutor - Paolo Borsellino - were blown up in Mafia hits. Riina was arrested six months later.

media captionRiina is believed to have ordered more than 150 murders

Mineo was rearrested in 2006 and spent another 11 years in jail. A well-known "pentito" (police informer), Tommaso Buscetta, is reported to have provided intelligence about him.

Commenting on Tuesday's raid, the head of the parliamentary anti-mafia commission, Nicola Morra, said "the state has won". He warned: "They will never give up - but nor shall we."

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