NAPLES, Italy -- If you're a gangster in Naples these days, even mom's not safe.
In January, Carmela Attrice answered a call on her condominium intercom from someone she recognized, went down to the front door and was met by three men. They pumped a dozen bullets into her. The reason, police say: Attrice's son, Francesco, belonged to an organized crime faction locked in a battle for control of drug trafficking.
Italian police officers in November searched a building in Naples' Scampia neighborhood, the center of a violent struggle for control of an international drug smuggling enterprise run by the camorra, the Neapolitan version of the Mafia.
(Salvatore Laporta -- AP)
Over the past five months, a series of brazen killings here has provided a new meaning for the adage in praise of this seaside city: "See Naples and die." About 135 people have been gunned down in the city's organized crime feud, about 40 of them in the neighborhood of Scampia, epicenter of the violence and the place where Carmela Attrice lived and died. Mob-related killings in January numbered 16 citywide; there have been four so far in February.
The variety of crime scenes and gruesome homicides has been stunning -- a customer at a pizzeria shot dead and left face down in a still-warm pie; a restaurant owner killed at his cash register in plain view of customers; a woman shot point-blank and her body stuffed in the trunk of a car that was then set on fire; shootings in a laundry, a tobacco shop and grocery stores.
On Jan. 31, Vittorio Bevilacqua, 54, was shot in the head while leaving a deli. A few hours later, two men were ambushed and killed in retaliation, police said. Last Wednesday, men dressed in police uniforms stopped three gang members, tied their hands behind their backs and shot them execution-style.
Blase citizens and public officials point out that the city has seen it all before. The camorra, the Neapolitan version of the Mafia, has existed for three centuries. Periodic vicious infighting and turf warfare are the norm.
The eruption of violence has undermined a decade-long effort to put a kinder, gentler face on Naples. Successive city governments have cleaned up piazzas, reopened long-shuttered museums, built a shiny subway system and promoted Naples as a fashion center and magnet for high-tech industry and tourists.
City administrators are aware that the violence has struck hard at their officially declared "Naples renaissance." "I get angry when Naples is only equated with bloodshed," said Mayor Rosa Russo Jervolino.
"Crime and the rest of the city are different faces of Naples battling with each other," said Antonio Bassolino, a former mayor and now president of Campania region, an area that includes Naples. "What is important is that crime is not the dominant feature, even though in times like these it attracts great attention."
Over the years, city officials have tried to cut off the camorra from construction contracts and other forms of municipal patronage, hoping that would cause the organization to wither. But predictions of the camorra's decline were premature: Naples has become a major destination for drugs and the profits they generate.
"The problem is the skyrocketing increase in income," said Amato Lamberti, a sociology professor at the University of Naples who recently inaugurated the Camorra Observatory, a crime research group in Naples. "Construction, banking, transportation, retail sales -- the camorra is in all of them. The people doing the shooting are not the important elements. The big wheels are in Monte Carlo or the Canary Islands."
Franco Roberti, a deputy city prosecutor, estimates the annual Naples camorra drug income at about 15 billion euros -- close to $20 billion. The two dozen camorra groups operating in the area invest in legitimate businesses -- shops, banks, restaurants and construction companies -- and supplement their earnings from drugs, old-time extortion rackets, cigarette smuggling and the sale of false-label consumer goods.
Like their better-known cousin, the Sicilian Mafia, the camorra operate abroad, safeguarding drug routes in both Eastern and Western Europe. Indeed, the Naples bloodshed has an international angle: It is being carried out between warring members of a single camorra clan, the di Lauros, with loyalists based in Naples fighting a renegade faction based in Spain, a major transfer point for drugs into Italy. Think of "The Godfather" transferred to the shadow of Mount Vesuvius.
The camorra clan's leader, Paolo di Lauro, known as Ciruzzo the Millionaire, went into hiding in 2002. Italian police had issued warrants for his arrest on charges of drug trafficking and membership in an organized crime network. He left the operation in the hands of one son, Vicenzo, who was arrested in 2003, prosecutors said. By their account, control then shifted to the youngest of Paolo's 10 sons, Cosimo, 31.