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Mafia Boss And Wife Slain In Gangland War

September 28, 1988

PALERMO, Sicily (AP) _ Gunmen killed a Mafia boss and his wife as they sipped coffee in their luxury villa on Wednesday, authorities said. It was the latest attack in one of the bloodiest gangland wars in recent years.

The slayings of Giovanni and Francesca Bontade, both 42, brought to 14 the number of people killed in Sicily this week, including an anti-Mafia judge, Antonio Saetta, 66, his son Stefano, 35, and a leftist who campaigned against drugs and organized crime, Mauro Rostagno, 46.

The other victims were considered low-ranking gang members.

Parliament was studying new measures to beef up the war on the Mafia, and the Vatican called on the government to bring a halt to the killings.

″The Mafia emergency has perhaps never been as serious as in these days,″ said the Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano.

″Evidently there’s a war going on,″ said state’s attorney Domenico Signorino, who helped prosecute Bontade in the mass trial of more than 400 Mafia suspects that ended last December. Bontade was sentenced to eight years in prison for criminal association and was under house arrest pending an appeal.

Police said they found no signs of forced entry to the villa, which is surrounded by a garden. That indicated Bontade knew the gunmen and opened the gates with his remote controlled security system to let them in when they showed up around 11 a.m.

Once inside, the gunmen, armed with pistols, found their victims, in bathrobes, in the kitchen, investigators told reporters. Coffee cups were on the table.

The bullet-riddled bodies of the couple were discovered by Bontade’s sister. No traces were found of the gunmen.

Prosecutor Signorino said that according to testimony at the trial from so- called ″pentiti,″ or Mafiosi who turn state’s evidence, Bontade was a member of a leading underworld ″family.″

But Signorino said Bontade reportedly betrayed his brother, Stefano, to a rival gang. The brother was killed in 1981.

The Italian news agency ANSA said their father, who died of natural causes in 1974, was crime boss known as ″Don Paolino″ and was so influential that local banks would send cars around for him when he had any business to transact.

The wave of gangland killings comes at a time when officials in Sicily have complained the government was easing up on its anti-Mafia campaign.

The assassination Monday of Judge Antonio Saetta, 66, who presided over two major organized crime trials, was seen as an effort to intimidate officials at future trials. Saetta sentenced two powerful crime bosses, brothers Michele and Salvatore Greco, to life in prison.

Italian President Francesco Cossiga led mourners at the state funeral Tuesday for Saetta. ″Mr. President and Cabinet ministers, who will be the next victim?″ asked Archbishop Luigi Bommarito at the funeral service.

The Palermo newspaper L’Ora reported that a bomb scare aboard an unscheduled flight delayed the return to Rome on Tuesday evening of Justice Minister Guiliano Vassalli, who attended the funeral.

Update hourly