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Originally published January 14, 2009 at 10:30 AM | Page modified January 14, 2009 at 10:33 AM

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Police nab Mafia fugitive who fled through sewer

A Mafia fugitive who narrowly eluded arrest this week by fleeing though a small town's sewer system was captured Wednesday as he scrambled across a rooftop in another daring escape bid, police said.

Associated Press Writer

ROME —

A Mafia fugitive who narrowly eluded arrest this week by fleeing though a small town's sewer system was captured Wednesday as he scrambled across a rooftop in another daring escape bid, police said.

Investigators say the mobster Giuseppe Setola masterminded a terror spree that has bloodied the Caserta area of southern Italy for several months in a power struggle within the Camorra crime syndicate.

With a reputation as a sharpshooting hit-man, Setola, 38, has been convicted of murder and sentenced in absentia to life in prison. He escaped in the spring from house arrest, which was granted so he could recover from a purported eye problem.

Setola "was trying to escape by rooftop, further proof that he sees very well," Carabinieri paramilitary police Col. Carmelo Burgio told Sky TG24 TV.

On Monday, as dozens of police surrounded his hideout in a town near Caserta, he darted through a trap door fitted in a bedroom floor and, with a few bodyguards, apparently made his way through 1.5 kilometers (about a mile) of a stinking sewer conduit, according to investigators. The sewer layout had obviously been "studied very well" by Setola, Burgio said.

Shortly after the Mafia fugitive eluded police, he resurfaced near a road in the countryside, forced a woman to get out of a car she was driving, took the vehicle and kept going, investigators said.

Setola was arrested Wednesday in the small town of Mignano Monte Lungo, less than 48 hours later. Prosecutors said the house where Setola was captured by police on the roof was adjacent to a clinic.

"We believe Setola had been seeking treatment for wounds suffered during his escape" on Monday in another hamlet, Trentola Ducenta, Naples anti-Mafia Prosecutor Franco Roberti told The Associated Press by telephone.

The ANSA news agency said Setola had suffered a wrist injury in the sewer escape.

Police appeared to have been tipped to Setola's presence in Mignano Monte Lungo.

Burgio said that after being captured Setola asked about his wife, who had been arrested after weapons were found in the house with the trap door.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, whose ministry includes police forces, praised Setola's arrest as a "very serious blow to the Camorra."

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Police say they believe Setola had carried out some of the 18 or so killings in the countryside and small towns near Caserta last year.

In particular, he is suspected of ordering the gangland-style murders of six Ghanian immigrants. Investigators have theorized the Africans were slain to warn immigrants to stay out of drug trafficking, one of the Camorra's illicit sources of income.

In a past photo of Setola distributed by authorities, he is wearing dark glasses and a white patch over one eye.

Police had said for months that they were closing in on Setola, after arresting several of his purported top lieutenants.

Setola is believed by investigators to have been waging a reign of terror to try to win command of the Casalesi crime clan while rival Francesco Schiavone is in prison.

The crime clan takes its name from Casale di Principe, a Schiavone stronghold.

Camorra crime clans have carved up territory in the Campania region, which includes Naples. They run lucrative rackets ranging from numbers games to drugs and the smuggling of immigrants. Casalesi crime families also profit from the illegal transport of toxic waste, according to a report by a parliamentary anti-Mafia commission.

Earlier on Wednesday, authorities seized property linked to the Setola clan worth millions of euros (dollars), investigators said. It included two apartments being rented to U.S. military forces, said Roberti.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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