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Mafia may reduce Sicily's risk of infiltration by ISIS

By David Amoruso

If members of terrorist organization Islamic State (ISIS) are looking for a new target then Sicily might not be the smartest choice. Claudio Fava, the deputy chairman of the National Anti-Mafia Commission, told media that Cosa Nostra and its organized crime partners might possibly keep the Italian island safe from infiltration by ISIS.

At a regional anti-Mafia commission hearing today Fava said, “I am not surprised Sicily may be thought to be not at risk of Islamic State (ISIS) infiltration due to the presence of the Mafia.”

The deputy chairman (right) drew a comparison to terrorism in the 1970s. “We've already seen that during the years of domestic terrorism in Italy,” he said. “In the mid-70s Cosa Nostra exercised ‘armed surveillance’ over Sicily. It's no accident there were no kidnappings, and when they did occur they were carried out by Cosa Nostra as punishments.”

Read: Sicilian Mafia can't stop ISIS, says Mafia historian Salvatore Lupo

Though it may sound like Fava is paying tribute to the Mafia, that is far from the truth. This one falls under “fight fire with fire.” Cosa Nostra knows quite a bit about terrorizing the citizens of Sicily.

It wouldn’t be the first time the Mafia played a role in fighting an enemy of the state. It happened in the United States during the second World War. When the SS Normandie went up in flames in Manhattan on February 9, 1942, many feared that the Nazis had infiltrated New York’s docks.

Back then, the New York waterfront fell under firm control of the American mob. With fear and suspicion mounting, the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence enlisted the help of imprisoned Mafia boss Charles “Lucky” Luciano and his underlings. They would guard the waterfront to keep it safe from the Nazis and allow undercover agents to operate on the docks. It is alleged he also provided authorities with contacts in Sicily to assist during the Allies’ amphibious invasion of the Italian island in 1943.

In return the government would pardon Luciano who was serving a 30 to 50 year sentence for running a prostitution racket.  

Many questioned whether the whole deal was a set-up by Luciano so he could earn his release from prison. Some accounts even claim the SS Normandie fire was started by one of the dockworkers and that no Nazis were ever seen there. Be as it may, Luciano received his pardon in January of 1946 and was deported to Italy where he died of a heart attack at Naples airport in 1962.

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