Jake Wallis Simons, Daily Mail, April 23, 2016
Mafia bosses have ‘declared war’ against migrants on the holiday paradise of Sicily as one thousand new arrivals pour on to the island every week.
The feared Cosa Nostra are desperate to maintain supremacy after African crime gangs arrived with the migrants–and they are engaged in a deadly turf war.
An innocent Gambian man was shot through the head by an assassin in broad daylight sparking fears of a wider bloodbath.
Mayor Leoluca Orlando told MailOnline: ‘Palermo is no longer an Italian town. It is no longer European. You can walk in the city and feel like you’re in Istanbul or Beirut.’
Immigration to Italy soared by 90 per cent in the first three months of the year. The migrant population in Ballaró, the part of Palermo where the shooting took place, has risen from approximately five to 25 per cent since the migrant crisis began.
There is widespread concern in Italy that the number of new migrants exceeds the country’s capacity to cope–and the mafia is its biggest and most dangerous critic.
The mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando said: ‘In the past, when the Mafia was more powerful, it prevented any immigrants from entering the city. Until I was 30 years old, I never saw an African or Asian in Palermo.
‘The Mafia has not understood that the city has changed. We are now a city of immigrants, and the Mafia bosses no longer sit in the mayor’s chair.
‘Palermo is a Middle Eastern town in Europe. It is a mosaic city and we are happy about that.’
The deadly Mafia-migrant war began after African criminal gangs apparently entered the country alongside law-abiding migrants, and started to operate ‘on the Mafia’s doorstep’.
Mobsters claimed that police were targeting their activities while leaving African gangs alone.
Then, two weeks ago, an innocent Gambian migrant was shot through the head in a ‘hit’ by a gangster dubbed ‘an animal’. Astonishingly, he survived, but the attack was a brutal example of the violence gripping the island and raises fears it will spin out of control.
Mayor Orlando said: ‘This Mafia shooting was a tremendous mistake because it turned the city against them. The Mafia needs silence and darkness. It needs people to keep their mouths shut.
‘When it does such a brutal act, shooting a young guy, the mayor switches on the lights and the whole city comes after them.’
Palermo police commissioner Guido Longo added: ‘We are facing acts of unprecedented aggression and bullying [against migrants] with typically Mafioso attitudes. There is a will to impose their rule on the territory.’
The shooting took place just after 6pm in broad daylight, near the Balleró street market in the centre of the city, where street vendors sell pigs’ heads and gut fish while Mafiosos collect protection money.
This deprived district, characterised by its ancient, run-down buildings and cobbled streets, is a melting pot of immigrants from numerous countries and tough, working class Sicilians. It also attracts tourists, students, and yuppies.
Victim Yusapha Susso, 21, had been playing football at a nearby park. According to his attorney, Mr Susso was walking with two friends along Via Maqueda, the main thoroughfare, when an Italian man riding an electric bicycle drove into them from behind ‘intentionally and provocatively’.
An argument ensued. The Italian told them that he knew he was outnumbered, but ‘soon you will see’. He then allegedly contacted gangland friends and within minutes a group of up to 10 hoodlums arrived in cars, on motorcycles and by foot.
CCTV footage showed a fight breaking out. Susso managed to beat back his assailants and went to the aid of his friends.
That was when local mobster Emanuele Rubino, 28, retrieved a handgun from a nearby building, chased Susso into a side street and shot him in the head, it is alleged.
The bullet passed through Susso’s skull and out the other side, grazing the brain but not damaging it. According to police, the gangster then ‘sauntered off’.
‘Rubino walked 100 metres with a pistol in his hand between many people, as if nobody could stop him,’ said Rudolfo Ruperti, head of Palermo police’s Flying Squad. ‘He felt so powerful that he believed he would go unpunished. He has a violent, Mafioso nature.’
Mr Susso lay in a coma for four days and is now undergoing rehabilitation. Speaking from his hospital bed, he told MailOnline: ‘This won’t change me. My feelings can never change. I want to stay in Italy. Physically I am feeling better, but I am very emotional.
‘It was a miracle. My parents are Christian and I’m a believer,’ he said. ‘I’m not feeling angry, I’m just feeling good to have my life. When I go out of the hospital it will be like the first day of my life.’
Eyewitnesses reported seeing him sat in the road clutching his head. ‘When I went over there I didn’t think he was badly hurt because he was just acting as if he had a headache,’ said a shopkeeper. ‘Then he took his hand away and I saw the blood.’
At the scene, locals pointed out the bloodstain that remains visible on the road.
Rubino, who according to the mayor was ‘a mafiosi’, was apparently trying to establish himself as a local boss with the intention of either joining with a bigger Mafia family or setting up a new dynasty.
He was demanding protection money from immigrant businesses, police sources said, and ‘terrorising’ the local community.
Mr Ruperti, leading the investigation, said: ‘At the moment Rubino is not a member of any official Mafia clan, but his bullying indicates a clear Mafioso attitude.
‘His method is typically Mafioso, as he wants to show with the gun that he commands the territory, and uses the gun for a minor scuffle.
‘This is his gravest crime, and he faces 16 years in prison. His criminal record includes armed bank robbery, drug dealing and sex trafficking.’
Part of his strategy involved preying mercilessly on foreigners, targeting immigrant-owned businesses for protection money.
Mr Susso’s lawyer Vincenzo Gervasi told MailOnline the attack was part of an effort by Rubino to advertise himself to the bigger Mafia players, for whom the influx of rival African gangs is a grave concern.
He told police that he was ‘happy to go to prison for 12 years’ if it meant establishing a reputation as a force to be reckoned with in the Sicilian underworld.
‘He was a guy with a big personality, a Mafia personality. He wanted to take territory from other Mafia families of Palermo,’ said Gervasi. ‘He was trying to rule Ballaró. This was his plan to win power and have a role within the Mafia world.’
Unnamed African and Pakistani shopkeepers said that when they heard that the gangster was behind bars they said, ‘finally we are free from him’.
When Rubino was transported from the police station to prison, members of his family gathered and applauded – an established Mafia tradition in Sicily.
Rubino, who faces up to 16 years’ jail charged with attempted murder, has a criminal record including convictions for drug dealing, sex trafficking and armed robbery.
His neighbour Giovanni Zinna, 46, a former social worker who has lived opposite the attacker for 15 years, said: ‘He and his friends have no knowledge of life outside Palermo, so they are obsessed with gaining power in the city.’
‘This is their culture. It is the beginning of a war between the Mafia and the migrants. It is going to get worse. I am scared. There will be more migrants, more friction, more attacks. This was the first shooting, but it won’t be the last.’
Yesterday, the Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, wrote a letter to EU officials proposing that it funds ‘migration management’ measures in Africa, to stem the huge flow of the ‘economic migrants’ who are unlikely to be granted asylum.
‘One of our aims is to lower levels of migration and reduce tensions in Sicily and Italy as a whole,’ said Andrea Romano, an MP for Italy’s ruling Democratic Party.
‘What we see in Sicily is that when the state tries to better organise the migrants, the Mafia reacts. It tries to push people against the state and the migrants, because it wants the situation to remain blurred and disorganised. That allows them to take control.
‘Of course the tension is going to rise when migrant number go up. It is unavoidable in the face of such an emergency.
‘We want to better organise migration to lower burden on Sicilian citizens and push for our EU partners to share the burden with Italy. We hope that will ease the situation.’