Italy's Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu, forced to send police reinforcements to Naples, said Tuesday the state would fight the Mafia "blow for blow" to stop a bloody turf war in the southern port city adding to its grisly death toll of 114 victims.
Pisanu, minister with responsibility for Italy's police forces, said he had ordered the deployment of an extra 325 armed police and Carabinieri in Naples to help combat a spate of blood-letting which has killed 23 people in the past few weeks.
"I don't know if ... what we have seen in recent days is really a challenge to the state by the Camorra, but I can assure you that the state will respond blow for blow," Pisanu told a parliamentary committee in Rome.
Italy's third largest city already has the highest per capita police presence of any Italian city.
Even so, the Neapolitan Mafia, the Camorra, has shown a characteristic determination to get their man. The vendetta over drugs distribution claimed six more lives at the weekend, despite an already enlarged police presence in the city after a public outcry over the sustained blood-letting.
The weekend victims, including a 22-year-old woman, were the latest in a grim litany of Mafia hits which have claimed the lives of 114 people since January, victims of a turf war between clans which local experts have baptised "Di Lauro versus the Secessionists."
The conflict pits local Mafia boss Paolo Di Lauro -- aka Circuzzo the Millionaire -- against former members of his organization who have formed a splinter group.
The clan has reacted with typical brutality and the secessionists have responded in kind, making the streets of Naples the most dangerous in Italy.
Di Lauro, 51, built his empire in the Secondigliano area of the city, a grim suburb on its northern periphery, far away from the gracious curve of the famous bay and its brooding, volcanic Mount Vesuvius.
The father of 12 lived anonymously enough on drug distribution until October 2002, when a series of police swoops decimated his organisation, and arrested 27 of his associates. He remained at large, but is now one of Italy's most wanted criminals, according to the interior ministry.
Anti-Mafia investigators say he is extremely difficult to pin down, as he refuses to participate in summit meetings with other clans, does not use a telephone, and communicates his orders only through intermediaries.
According to anti-Mafia magistrate Giovanni Corona, Di Lauro has created a very structured organisation in which he delegates his drug supply activities to his lieutenants, sector by sector, or sub-contracts to smaller clans.
According to the daily La Repubblica, regular shipments of heroin and cocaine from Turkey and South America bring Di Lauro's empire a staggering US$655,000 a day. He has reportedly invested the money in real estate in Spain and Monaco as well as in casinos in eastern Europe.