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Heightened Mafia Activity Threatens Security at G7 Summit Venue

Tuesday 11 June 2024 - 11:45
Heightened Mafia Activity Threatens Security at G7 Summit Venue

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's announcement of the G7 leaders’ meeting in Puglia coincided with a troubling escalation of mafia-style violence in the region. Local anti-mafia investigators focused on three criminal groups believed to be behind the surge in violence, as highlighted in the Italian Interior Ministry’s report of January 2024. The report revealed a complex landscape of criminal dynamics, characterized by conflicts between clans and inter-clan friction.

These groups, stemming from the Sacra Corona criminal syndicate centered around Foggia, operate predominantly within Italy and the Balkans, distinguishing themselves from internationally active mafia counterparts like Cosa Nostra, Camorra, and 'Ndrangheta. Situated in Bari and Brindisi, where the G7 summit is scheduled, these groups have engaged in bold daylight attacks and armed car-jackings, leading to several vendetta murders and instances of brutal violence.

Furthermore, the discovery of an abandoned briefcase containing suspicious items near Bari's train station in March, followed by a series of bomb threats, heightened security concerns. Armed raids on villas near the summit venue and clashes between rival clans exacerbated the tense atmosphere, prompting the Interior Ministry to propose military intervention to restore control in the region.

The mafia’s infiltration of legitimate projects, including those related to summit preparations, has raised additional alarms. Investigations into construction projects, roadworks, and infrastructure development have been initiated to counter potential mafia influence, with a comprehensive report expected post-summit.

As the G7 approaches, local authorities face the challenge of ensuring the security of world leaders while maintaining public order. Prefect Luigi Carnevale acknowledged the unforeseen complexity introduced by criminal activities leading up to the summit, necessitating meticulous security management.

Despite Puglia's reputation for its scenic beauty and luxury tourism infrastructure, recent events underscore the region's vulnerability to criminal influence. Borgo Egnazia, the summit venue, renowned for its exclusivity, has attracted celebrities for years, with assurances of privacy from resort head Aldo Melpignano. Hosting the G7 represents a significant recognition for Puglia, achieved through collaborative efforts between public and private sectors.

Security preparations, led by DIGOS, include preemptive measures to deter potential threats, such as monitoring arrivals at airports and seaports to prevent the establishment of sleeper cells. A designated security perimeter around Borgo Egnazia, bolstered by the deployment of thousands of soldiers and naval assets, aims to safeguard attendees and special guests, including Pope Francis and other world leaders.

The temporary suspension of the Schengen open border policy reflects authorities’ vigilance in controlling entry during the summit period. Concerns about protester mobilization, coupled with past incidents of violence during similar events, necessitate stringent security measures, with specialized military police closely monitoring criminal elements.

Despite assurances of the world leaders’ safety, ensuring a peaceful environment for the thousands expected to attend requires comprehensive security coordination. Chief Pisani emphasized the need to prevent any perception of the region succumbing to mafia, terrorism, or common crime, acknowledging the intense scrutiny Puglia will face during the summit.

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