The Italian government has announced on Tuesday that 500 military troops will be mobilized to support security forces in the fight against organized crime in the region of Naples.
The move comes after the killing of six West African immigrants in the small town of Castelvolturno, near Naples last week.
Investigators have indicated that the killings may be related to a turf of war linked to drug trafficking involving the Camorra, the local mafia.
Shortly before the immigrants were killed, the owner of a games arcade was shot dead in a mafia-like execution in the same town. Gunmen shot 60 bullets into his head and stomach.
After a government cabinet meeting, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said that there is “an obvious criminal emergency”.
“The soldiers will go to the areas where a better control of the territory is required,” he explained.
Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa has indicated that the troops will be deployed over a period of three months.
He added that the contingent of 500 soldiers will not be pulled from the 3,000 who have been deployed since August to reinforce security in the main Italian cities.
In an interview published on Tuesday in the Secolo d’Italia newspaper Ignazio La Russa expressed caution, however, about the impact the army can have in the fight against organized crime.
“Soldiers do not have a magic wand and I do not want them to be seen as the panacea," the newspaper quote him as saying. “There should not be unjustified expectations.”
On Monday, security forces detained a man, who was already under house arrest on drug charges, suspected to have been part of the shootings in Castelvolturno.
Italian news agency Ansa is reporting that African immigrants have recently begun to deal drugs autonomously in an area controlled by the Casalesi clan, notoriously regarded as one of the most powerful and violent groups in the Camorra.
According to the town’s mayor, the number of inhabitants of Castelvolturno has increased twofold in recent years due essentially to the arrival of illegal African immigrants, creating tensions with local residents.
Last week’s killings have provoked street riots by immigrants.
Italian authorities consider the Camorra as one of the main criminal organization of the country, with considerable influence in the economy and politics of Naples and its region.
The 2008 report by the Italian political institute Eurispes concluded that the Camorra earned revenues of 12 billion euros last year, half of which came from drug trafficking.
The deployment of troops around Naples will be a reminder of a similar operation launched in Sicily in 1992 to fight against the local mafia.
7,000 troops were sent to the island in the wake of the killings of prominent anti-mafia judges Paolo Borsellino and Giovanni Falcone.
Many involved in the fight against organized crime saw the army’s presence of crucial symbolical importance as proof of the State's efforts to regain control of the territory.
Leading members of the Sicilian and Neapolitan mafias were arrested in a matter of weeks.