More than 20 alleged members of a feared Nigerian mafia gang called the Black Axe have been rounded up during raids in Italy.
The suspects are accused of being involved in a catalogue of criminal activities, from prostitution and protection rackets through to drug dealing and human trafficking.
The nationwide operation was co-ordinated by the anti-mafia squad in Palermo, Sicily.
The arrests come after a member of the Black Axe turned informer and revealed the workings of the secretive criminal network, including the identifies of senior members.
Among those detained in the latest raids was the head of the group’s Italian operation in Padua.
In recent months there have also been arrests in Torino and Milan.
The rise of the Black Axe has been linked to the wave of migrants making the crossing from North Africa.
It has been reported the criminal syndicate has forged links with the Italian mafia, the Cosa Nostra.
According to the authorities, the Italian gangsters import drugs, which are then distributed by the Nigerians.
However, as part of the subordinate relationship, it is understood the Nigerian gang are banned by their Italian counterparts from carrying guns and so settle their differences using axes and machetes.