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Mafia godfather buried amid friends and foes in Corleone

© AFP/File | Mafia boss Toto Riina, seen here in a picture taken in 1993, has been buried in the Sicilian town of Corleone, near Palermo

ROME (AFP) - 

Former "boss of bosses" Toto Riina, one of the most feared godfathers in the history of the Sicilian Mafia, was buried Wednesday in his hometown of Corleone.

Riina, who had been serving 26 life sentences and is thought to have ordered more than 150 murders, was laid to rest in the family tomb, which sits near the graves of other famed mobster-in-chiefs.

Nicknamed "The Beast" because of his cruelty, Salvatore "Toto" Riina succumbed to cancer last week aged 87.

His coffin, with white flowers on top, was briefly blessed by a priest as mourners including his wife and three of his four children looked on, according to Italian media reports.

The cemetery was closed to the press amid a heavy police presence.

Riina's son Giovanni, who is serving time in jail for four murders, was not given permission to attend.

The Church had refused to give the man dubbed "U Curtu" ("Shorty") -- who led a reign of terror for almost 20 years after taking control of the Cosa Nostra in the 1970s -- a public funeral.

He continued to order hits from behind bars and was caught on wiretap this year saying he regretted "nothing".

La Repubblica daily noted his favourite nephew Giovanni Grizzaffi, who had been named by Riina as a possible successor, was not present at the burial.

Mafia experts have warned there may be a power struggle now within the organised crime group.

Multi-murderer playboy Messina Denaro, one of the world's most-wanted men, is seen by many as Riina's natural heir but has been on the run since 1993.

Just a few metres from Riina's last resting place lies Bernardo Provenzano -- known as "the Tractor" for the way he mowed his victims down -- and volatile and vain boss Luciano Leggio, who was a young Riina's mentor.

But nearby are also buried some of Corleone's heroes, including Placido Rizzotto, a trade unionist brutally murdered for standing up to the Mafia, and Calogero Comaianni, who was slaughtered for his role in bringing Leggio to justice.

Corleone become synonymous with the Mafia through Francis Ford Coppola's popular "Godfather" film trilogy, in which the central characters take their family name from the hilltop village near Palermo.

© 2017 AFP