NEWS | Sunday, 26 August 2007

Air Malta takes ‘Ndrangheta victims to Calabria

Matthew Vella

The bodies of two of the victims of a mafia vendetta which took place in Duisburg, Germany, were transported through Malta by the national airline on Friday on their way to Reggio Calabria.
The coffins of brothers Francesco and Mario Pergola were the unusual cargo of Air Malta on Friday morning, transporting the deceased suspected gang members to the southern Italian city via Malta.
From Reggio Calabria, the bodies were taken to Siderno, for the public funerals of the five victims of the Duisburg tragedy.
It is believed the victims were members of the ‘Ndrangheta, the notorious Calabrian organised crime network.
Experts say the ‘Ndrangheta has grown to become a far bigger organisation than the Sicilian Mafia, and that it has links with Colombian drug cartels. ‘Ndrangheta engages in money laundering, protection rackets and drug trafficking all over Europe, but it is controlled by a small group of families all living in a remote mountainous area in the toe of Italy.
The bodies of the three other victims, Marco Marmo, Sebastiano Strangio and Francesco Giorgi, arrived in Italy earlier this week. The funeral of a sixth victim, Tommaso Venturi, will take place in Germany where he was born and lived.
The funerals were held amid tight security and the usual processions to the cemetery were banned.
The bullet-riddled bodies of the victims were found near a pizza parlour in Duisburg.
The two involved clans, the Strangio-Nirta and Pelle-Romeo families, both belong to the ‘Ndrangheta criminal organisation. After a fight at a carnival celebration in 1991 turned ugly, two young men from Stangio-Nirta were killed, leading to a series of revenge killings. A truce was called in 2000.
The conflict flared up again on Christmas Day, 2006, when Maria Strangio was shot dead in San Luca. She was the wife of Giovanni Nirta, a supposed leader of the Strangio-Nirta family. Until August 2007, five more murders and eight attempted murders in Calabria have been attributed to the feud.
The conflict then received significant new public attention on 15 August 2007, when six men belonging to the Pelle Romeo clan were shot dead in their cars in front of a pizzeria near the train station of Duisburg in western Germany.
One of the victims, Marco Marmo, was seen as responsible for the murder of Maria Strangio. It is believed that the men had moved to Germany to escape the feud. A massacre of these proportions is unprecedented in the history of the ‘Ndrangheta.

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