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A New Calabrian Mob Alliance Sparks Shocking Violence — And More Women Victims

United to colonize the region’s north, two allied mob families from Calabria's 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate have resumed methods to establish themselves that have been abandoned for years. The result is as bloody as the Italian mob has been in memory.

Armed Italian Carabinieri and their vehicule by the side of the road at San Luca

Italian Carabinieri involved in the arrest of 'Ndrangheta mob members

Giuseppe Legato

CASSANO ALL’IONIO — Here in the northern reaches of Calabria, a new mob alliance is combining the old ‘ndrangheta and nomadic criminality that is distinguishing itself by its ferocity.

The ‘ndrina Abruzzese and the ‘ndrina Forastefano, two opposing coschemob families), who had been at war with each other in the early 2000s, have now allied to take over what remains of northern Calabria up to the border with the Basilicata region.

The 44 kilometers of Calabrian coastline between the towns of Villapiana and Rossano are bloodied by a war that hardly anyone talks about, and yet is still fresh.

Cruel, cynical, archaic, harsh: this new hybrid Calabrian mob is back to shooting people in the streets, and it doesn’t spare women. In one year, two have died, bringing the number of victims in the past 24 months to 15.

Those who kill almost always shoot with Kalashnikov assault rifles, and they don’t skimp on bullets: 18 from a Russian-made AK-47 rifle and 14 from a 9mm gun hit Antonella Lopardo, 49, in the beginning of May. Her hands, abdomen and face were riddled. The killers were after her husband Salvatore Maritato, who was the real (missed) target of the execution.

The cruelty and modality of the crime led local prosecutors to pass the case to the Anti-Mafia Directorate of Catanzaro led by Chief Prosecutor Nicola Gratteri. According to the investigators' reconstruction, Antonella Lopardo ended up in the gunmen’s line of fire by accident: she heard a knock on the window and approached it to see who was there, but she barely had the time to move the curtain that the bullets hit her.

Her husband crouched behind an armored door, escaping the ambush.

Signs of escalation

Antonella is not the only woman to be killed recently. In April 2022, in the same area, Hanene Hendli, 38, was murdered alongside her partner, convicted criminal Maurizio Scorza: one shot in his head, seven against her while they were in their car.

It is not common for women to be killed during mafia clan wars. The last time this happened in Calabria was nine years ago, when Ibisse Taoussa was murdered and burned along with convicted criminal Giuseppe Iannicelli and his grandson “Cocò” Campolongo, who was three years old.

For this reason, investigators probing the case fear an escalation. On this stretch of the Calabrian coast, few things go unpunished, especially with murders like these.

The same thing happened in 2006 elsewhere in the region. In the town of San Luca, the heart of the Calabrian ‘ndrangheta, Maria Strangio was murdered on her doorstep on Dec. 25.

Candid photo of Antonella Lopardo

The murder of Antonella Lopardo, killed with 30 gunshots instead of her husband


Second-class mafia

The same dynamic was seen in the murder of Antonella Lopardo: gunmen were after her husband, local boss Giovanni Luca Nirta, who survived.

"No one, except investigators, seems to notice."

Her murder reignited the long-dormant feud between ‘ndrangheta families that led to the massacre of six people in Duisburg, Germany, when the world was introduced to the Calabrian mafia, at the time less well-known than Cosa Nostra (Sicily) and Camorra (Naples).

But it was precisely this spotlight that left the Forastefano-Abruzzese alliance in northern Calabria in the shadows. It was mistakenly written off as a second-class mafia. Instead, according to journalist and writer Arcangelo Badolati, the case shows the triumph of "the rule of ferocity of a real supercosca which has overcome the frictions of the past and merged into a single structure. It is impatient and intolerant of any attempt at criminal autonomy.”

This alliance doesn't deal exclusively with drugs and extortion: “They are trying to take over companies in the agribusiness chain, the leading sector of the territory’s economy," says Badolati. Peaches grown in the area are used by international juice companies. "No one, except investigators, seems to notice," Badolati says.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

How Russia And Belarus Are Cracking Down On Exiles — And A Passport Fix To Fight Back

Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko is making it impossible for citizens who've fled the country to renew their passports, which will may make some effectively stateless. What are some possible solutions?

Photo of a customs official stamping a passport in Minsk, Belarus

Stamping passports in Minsk, Belarus

Boris Gorozovsky

Under strict new measures introduced by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, foreign embassies may no longer issue documents to Belarusians. This will make it impossible for Belarusians outside of the country to renew passports unless they return — which could lead to criminal prosecution for some who fled after the 2020 protests.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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Russia, on the other hand, has adopted a different approach to encourage the return of its citizens abroad. After considering a 30% tax on emigrants' income, they settled on a 13% personal income tax rate.

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