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Eight Murdered In Drug War

May 5, 1991 GMT

TAURIANOVA, Italy (AP) _ Underworld killers locked in a savage drug war murdered eight people in three days and laughed as they butchered one before dozens of terrified witnesses, police said.

Police said most if not all of the killings on Thursday, Friday and Saturday were ordered by two crime families fighting to control a drug trade in the toe of the Italian boot. At stake is hundreds of millions of dollars a year in profits.

The gunmen worked savagely and sometimes gleefully, killing with a barbarism that police said was intended to send a message to the living.

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One victim was beheaded by laughing gunmen who held the severed head aloft before about 30 horrified witnesses and then repeatedly tossed it in the air for target practice, police said.

Another victim of what police call ″Black Friday″ in Taurianova was killed by 19 blasts from sawed-off shotguns.

Investigators believe the dead in Taurianova and three others killed Saturday night in a bar in nearby Laureana di Borrello were victims of the war between the Zagari-Avignone-Viola and the Asciutto-La Ficara-Alampi crime families.

The families are fighting to replace Mimmo Giovinazzo, who was killed in March 1990, as the boss of bosses in the ’ndrangheta - the name of the underworld in the southern province of Calabria.

The province has had Italy’s highest murder rate for 30 years. So far this year, 105 people have been killed, 74 of them in and around the provincial capital of Reggio di Calabria, a city of about 90,000.

Government crime statistics show Taurianova, a town of about 12,000, has one of the largest concentrations of underworld gang members.

A recent report issued by Interior Minister Vincenzo Scotti said there are no less than 20 ’ndrangheta clans in Taurianova with more than 400 members.