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Unguarded 'Ndrangheta boss escapes from hospital

Antonio Pelle part of clan involved in 2007 Duisburg massacre

15 September, 13:15
Unguarded 'Ndrangheta boss escapes from hospital (ANSA) - Reggio Calabria, September 15 - A detained boss of one of Calabria's bloodiest 'Ndrangheta mafia clans has escaped from a hospital in the southern Italian region.

Antonio Pelle, 48, a member of one of the factions in a feud that claimed 20 lives up to last year, apparently walked out of the hospital where he had been laid up for five days.

No police guards had been stationed there, officials said.

The centre-left opposition demanded "to know why such a dangerous mobster was left unguarded".

Pelle, sentenced to 13 years in jail for an array of mafia crimes, is part of a family which took part in one of the most infamous feuds in recent history. The vendetta, which was sparked by an egg-throwing spat a wedding in 1991, included a massacre in the peaceful German city of Duisburg in 2007, an incident which helped put 'Ndrangheta in the global spotlight.

The bloodbath on August 15, 2007 gained headlines worldwide.

Ndrangheta' (from a Greek word meaning 'heroism' or virtue') once lived in the twin shadow of its Sicilian cousin Cosa Nostra and the Camorra in Naples.

It is regarded as the most impenetrable of Italy's mafias, with its close-knit family-based organisation outdoing the Sicilian mafia in its ability to defeat police efforts to turn members into state witnesses.

Italian authorities have made scores of 'Ndrangheta arrests in the past three years and have stepped up the seizure of assets to try to undermine its power base.

A national agency to manage confiscated assets has been set up in Reggio Calabria as a mark of Italy's determination to curb 'Ndrangheta, which has expanded worldwide in its Calabrian home.

The agency was opened last year after a string of intimidatory attacks on Reggio prosecutors.

Over the past year anti-mafia police have confiscated more than 200 million euros from 'Ndrangheta, Italy's richest mafia because of its domination of the European cocaine trade.

Pelle was arrested in October 2008 in a farmhouse bunker which police said had been luxuriously furnished and was surrounded by over 100 marijuana plants.

The mobster, known within the clan as 'Mamma', had been on the run since 2007.

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