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Police Round Up Suspected Mobsters

June 27, 1998

PALERMO, Sicily (AP) _ Police rounded up dozens of suspected mobsters Friday, dealing a serious blow to the Sicilian Mafia.

Among those arrested in the Palermo area on charges ranging from murder, theft, drug trafficking and gunrunning were 22 suspected members of the infamous Corleone clan.

The reputed head, Vito ``Old Rag″ Vitale, was arrested in April.

His sister, Giuseppina Vitale, 26, was picked up in Vitale’s hometown, Partinico, just outside Palermo. Police also filed new charges against his brother, Leonardo, who is serving a life prison sentence.

In Catania, on Sicily’s west coast, police arrested another 40 people and filed Mafia-related charges against 14 more people already in jail. Among them were two men accused of ordering murders from prison using cellular phones.

The huge bust came just a day after the army withdrew its forces after a six-year deployment aimed at freeing police to fight organized crime. About 150,000 soldiers had been deployed on the territory since 1992, following bombings that killed Italy’s top anti-Mafia prosecutors.

Lt. Col. Nicola Tota, a Defense Ministry official in Rome, said the army had withdrawn because ``army forces must always be used on emergency basis alone.″