ROME, June 29 -- The Calabrian Mafia, known as the 'Ndrangheta, has overtaken Sicily's Cosa Nostra as Italy's most dangerous crime organization, the country's top anti-Mafia official said Saturday. 'The 'Ndrangheta is at the moment the most active and dangerous organization in our country,' National anti-Mafia Prosecutor Bruno Siclari told reporters in the southern city of Reggio Calabria. 'It is capable of spreading throughout the national territory,' he said. Speaking to reporters, Siclari gave details of a nationwide police operation against the 'Ndrangheta, which led to the arrest of more than 90 alleged members of the crime group, which is based in the southwest tip of Italy. Magistrates in Reggio Calabria issued arrest warrants for 172 people charged with belonging to a crime organization responsible for 29 murders and large scale arms and drug trafficking. The organization is accused of distributing around 3 tons of heroin, worth about $156 million, in northern Italy between 1990 and 1993. Investigators allege the group imported the drugs from Turkey and alsobought arms from Kurdish guerrilla groups operating in the southern Mediterranean country. 'Cosa Nostra is in crisis, while the 'Ndrangheta, despite suffering some setbacks, is living through a period of strong expansion, also at an international level,' said anti-Mafia Prosecutor Enzo Macri. Macri said Italian magistrates were in regular contact with police forces in Argentina, Australia and Germany, which all have large immigrant communities from Calabria. The Sicilian Mafia has recently suffered a series of reverses, with the arrest of its top bosses and an increasing number of its members deciding to break the organization's rule of silence, known as omerta, and collaborate with the authorities.
Guido Lo Forte, anti-Mafia prosecutor in the Sicilian capital Palermo, said in a newspaper interview June 19 that the defection of top Mafia bosses in Sicily presented the state with a unique opportunity to destroy Cosa Nostra. 'Cosa Nostra's value system has collapsed,' Lo Forte said. So far the 'Ndrangheta, which is notorious for its ferocity, has been less affected by members deciding to leave the organization and turn state's evidence in return for lighter sentences. Investigators said Saturday's police operation had been made possible in part because of the testimony of two sons whose father was murdered by the 'Ndrangheta. The man was shot dead in a clan feud five years ago in the southern town of Taurianova. His assassins subsequently cut off his head and threw it into the air to use for shooting practice.