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Mourning Sicilians Rage at Mafia Terror

July 22, 1992|RONE TEMPEST | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PALERMO, Sicily — Thousands of Sicilians filled Palermo's central cathedral Tuesday to mourn the deaths of five police bodyguards killed in the car-bomb assassination of a leading anti-Mafia prosecutor.

Outside the large, Norman-era cathedral, demonstrators broke through police barricades in a rage against the Italian government's inability to control Mafia violence that has claimed the lives of three leading public figures--including Palermo's chief prosecutor, Paolo Borsellino, on Sunday--in Palermo since March.

"Buffoon! Assassin!" many in the crowd shouted as Italy's top police official, Vincenzo Parisi, entered the cathedral for the funeral ceremonies, which were also attended by Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro and Prime Minister Giuliano Amato.

The grief inside the church, where the island's religious leader, Cardinal Salvatore Pappalardo, described Palermo as a "sorrowful woman," and the rage outside reflected the frustration that has gripped all of Italy for the last three days.

On Tuesday, police officers demonstrated in Palermo, Milan, Pescara, Bologna and Rome against the hazardous duty to which some are assigned as bodyguards for public officials targeted by the Mafia.

In addition to the five bodyguards killed in the Sunday car-bombing in central Palermo, three more police bodyguards died in another Mafia car-bombing May 23 that killed Italy's leading anti-Mafia judge, Giovanni Falcone, and his wife. The latest series of Mafia assassinations of public figures began in March when prominent politician Salvo Lima, former mayor of Palermo, was gunned down in his car by two men on motorcycles.

In another demonstration of frustration over Mafia violence, the mayor of Palermo, several city councilmen and seven Sicilian magistrates, declaring that the risks they face are not worth it, resigned from office Tuesday.

"Palermo says, 'Enough,' " Mayor Aldo Rizzo said on a television newscast as he announced his resignation. "Palermo wants peace, no more of these massacres, but it can't accomplish this by itself."

Rizzo served as mayor here for less than a month. In other demonstrations, the stock exchange in Milan stopped trading for five minutes of silence Tuesday. Stock prices have fallen sharply since the Borsellino assassination Sunday, reflecting the country's shell-shocked mood. Two minutes of silence were also observed on the streets of Rome. Italy's three public television networks blacked out programming for 10 minutes.

Perhaps the most telling protest, however, came from Borsellino's survivors. Instead of accepting the state funeral offered them, the family, including Borsellino's wife, two daughters and son, have chosen to grieve privately in a separate ceremony, probably today. All day and night Monday and Tuesday, thousands of Sicilians filed past Borsellino's coffin, draped with his red silk judicial robe and festooned with flowers, where the prosecutor lay in state in the Palace of Justice here.

Other judges and prosecutors stood vigil by the coffin in shifts. One, Magistrate Dominico Gozzo, 33, described the assassination as "a very hard blow for all of us."

At the site of the car-bomb explosion in the middle-class Constanza neighborhood, investigators were still searching for clues in the rubble Tuesday. The explosion is believed to have been caused by a remote-control bomb. But so complete was the devastation that police admitted Tuesday that they had not even determined the type of explosive employed.

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