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The Grotesquely False Myth That The Mafia Doesn't Kill Children

The funeral in Naples for 14-year-old Annalisa Durante
The funeral in Naples for 14-year-old Annalisa Durante
Francesco La Licata

PALERMO — Italy was in shock again this week after a 2-year-old boy was killed in a revenge hit by the Sacra Corona Unita (SCU) organized crime syndicate on a Puglia motorway Monday night.

The little boy, Domenico Petruzzelli, was one of three people, along with his mother and her partner — a convicted murderer — shot to death by killers in a passing car in what police believe was part of a mob vendetta.

Indignation, which will quickly fade, has now begun for the latest tragically young victim of Italian mafia violence. We’ve seen it in interviews before, where the residents of the towns obediently whisper, “It’s never happened before.”

That’s not even a little bit true. Children have always been among the innocent victims of the mob, of criminals, of the family feuds that refuse to end. It’s happened so many times, all over the southern section of Italy’s boot, even though the mafia myth says that women and children won’t ever be harmed.

The collective Italian memory is very short and always feigns shock when a child such as Domenico, murdered in cold blood at age 2, is killed. But then the bad memories fade, forgotten because we can’t stand the enormous weight they place on our own consciences.

Who remembers Annalisa Durante? She was a teenager from a town outside Naples, gunned down 10 years ago just because she was in the same room where a war was raging among factions of the region’s Camorra mob organization. She had written in her diary: “I want to escape to Naples. I’m scared.”

Then there was Nuncio Pancali, a two-year-old from the Rione Sanità neighborhood in Naples who was in his mobster father’s arms when he was shot in another Camorra feud.

Even as recently as January, the charred remains of 3-year-old Nicola “Coco” Campolongo, were discovered alongside his slain grandfather in a car in the region of Calabria. As payback for an outstanding drug debt, hitmen from the ’Ndrangheta mob shot the toddler in the head and burned the bodies.

And these days, few people remember the name of Domenico Gabriele, who was shot down as he ran onto a soccer field, unaware that his father was the target of his murderers.

Dissolved, disappeared

One of the most notorious cases was the 1996 slaying of Giuseppe Di Matteo, the 11-year-old son of a Sicilian Mafia boss. The nation was stunned when it emerged that, after more than two desperate years in the hands of his kidnappers, he was strangled and his body dissolved in a vat of acid.

This list goes on and on. Even Sicilians have their own mafiosi fables that people are protected by their age. “Do not touch women or children,” reads the phony unwritten law of the Cosa Nostra.

The origin of the myth is that once upon a time more attention was paid to the safety of women and children. Only if it was “absolutely necessary” was a youngster targeted. Older generations remember when it was “recommended” that killers shoot their victims away from the eyes of family members. But if the intended victims insisted on going around with their children clinging to their necks, as human shields, then they decided to waste little time on niceties.

A particularly ferocious incident was when Claudio Domino, 11, was shot in the forehead because he was “guilty of seeing something he shouldn’t have.” The mafia, worried about the loss of local support, publicly distanced itself from this case and even had a member read a statement in court during the infamous Maxi trial in the late 1980s.

It would be absolutely impossible to recount all the terrible stories that have taken place on the island of Sicily. One thing seems pretty conclusive, though: Scrolling through the list of victims, it’s quite apparent that ours is an island for neither women nor children.

On Saturday, in the city of Latina, on the “Day of Memory and Commitment,” the names of the mob’s 900-plus innocent victims will be read aloud. On Friday, family members of those fallen will meet Pope Francis.

The latest news should give pause to the hardworking businesspeople of Palermo who, just a few days ago, lowered their shutters for the funeral of Giuseppe Di Giacomo, a godfather of Cosa Nostra, as a sign of respect. He was shot in his car with his 9-year-old grandson in the passenger seat, who barely managed to escape harm.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Why The U.S. Lost Its Leverage In The Middle East — And May Never Get It Back

In the Israel-Hamas war, Qatar now plays the key role in negotiations, while the United States appears increasingly disengaged. Shifts in the region and beyond require that Washington move quickly or risk ceding influence to China and others for the long term.

Photograph of U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken  shaking hands with sraeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

November 30, 2023, Tel Aviv, Israel: U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken shakes hands with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Chuck Kennedy/U.S State/ZUMA
Sébastien Boussois


PARIS — Upon assuming office in 2008, then-President Barack Obama declared that United States would gradually begin withdrawing from various conflict zones across the globe, initiating a complex process that has had a major impact on the international landscape ever since.

This started with the American departure from Iraq in 2010, and was followed by Donald Trump's presidency, during which the "Make America Great Again" policy redirected attention to America's domestic interests.

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The withdrawal trend resumed under Joe Biden, who ordered the exit of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in 2021. To maintain a foothold in all intricate regions to the east, America requires secure and stable partnerships. The recent struggle in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict demonstrates that Washington increasingly relies on the allied Gulf states for any enduring influence.

Since the collapse of the Camp David Accords in 1999 during Bill Clinton's tenure, Washington has consistently supported Israel without pursuing renewed peace talks that could have led to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

While President Joe Biden's recent challenges in pushing for a Gaza ceasefire met with resistance from an unyielding Benjamin Netanyahu, they also stem from the United States' overall disengagement from the issue over the past two decades. Biden now is seeking to re-engage in the Israel-Palestine matter, yet it is Qatar that is the primary broker for significant negotiations such as the release of hostages in exchange for a ceasefire —a situation the United States lacks the leverage to enforce.

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