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Paper: Mafia Plotted To Blow Up Prison Walls

Mon., Dec. 23, 1996

The Mafia planned to blow up the walls of Palermo’s fortress prison last year, freeing scores of mobsters in a spectacular escape, according to Italian news reports Sunday.

The plan was aborted at the last minute after a team of specially trained police agents were assigned to Ucciardone prison as part of Italy’s stepped-up war against organized crime, said the reports, citing a Mafia informant.

Ucciardone was long notorious for allowing imprisoned mobsters special treatment that allowed them to conduct their criminal business from behind bars.

But security has been tightened in recent years. RAI state TV reported last week that a prison director was transferred after threats against his life, apparently from mobsters angry about the tighter security.

An investigation into the murder of a prison guard led to the arrest over the weekend of 22 Mafia suspects in an operation that began Saturday night, the Italian news agency ANSA reported Sunday. The arrests were concentrated in the Trapani area of western Sicily.

Investigators were aided by a Mafia informant, a suspected murderer named Vincenzo Sinacori, who was arrested in December 1995, a few weeks after the alleged plot was aborted, ANSA reported.

Informants, now numbering in the hundreds, have been a key weapon in the state’s war on the mob. Critics have questioned whether the “pentiti” can be believed or if their allegations might really be aimed at settling scores with fellow mobsters.

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