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Three die in 'female' Mafia shoot-out

Three women were killed and five more injured in an unusual shoot-out between the female members of two Mafia families near Naples, in southern Italy. Two carloads of female gangsters careered around narrow roads between small towns, exchanging machine gun and pistol fire and terrifying passing motorists.

The shooting began in the town of Lauro, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) east of Naples, on Sunday night. "Never before had women pointed guns at each other and never before had they been played leading roles in a shootout," the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera said. Two of the dead women involved in the incident between the rival Cava and Graziano clans were grandmothers, and the other victim was the 16 year-old grand-daughter of one of the Mafia families.

Our correspondent David Willey says that normally gunmen sent to kill rival in family vendettas are exclusively male, but in recent year the womenfolk of Mafia bosses have been playing a bigger role in organised crime.

In one of the cars were the women of the Cava family, while in the other one was Salvatore Graziano - the reputed boss of a rival clan - with three female relatives. After the shootout the two cars were riddled with bullet holes. Both clans belong to the Camorra syndicate -the Neapolitan version of Sicily's Mafia - and they have been fighting for control for years for control of extortion, drug and prostitution. Feuding between the two clans flared up in again in January after a cousin of the Cava boss was assassinated.

Our correspondent says that recently some Mafia clans have been led - temporarily or permanently - by women after their menfolk were captured and given long prison terms. One "madrina", or godmother, allegedly ran one of Naples' most powerful clans until she was arrested two years ago. Erminia Giuliano, nicknamed the Queen of the Clan, allegedly took over the operation of the Camorra syndicate after the arrests of her three brothers. The police ranked her as one of Italy's 30 most dangerous criminals.

Correspondents say that the Sunday shootout could be another sign of changes for the Mafia woman, who traditionally fulfilled the role of a loving mother and wife.

Source: BBC News Online, May 27 2002
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