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Sicilian Mob Boss Salvatore Riina Dies In Italian Hospital Prison Ward

Salvatore Riina, aka "Toto," the most important figure of the Sicilian mafia, is brought to justice after evading police for 23 years at the Aula Bunker of Palermo courthouse on March 4, 1993 in Palermo, Italy.

Former Sicilian Mafia godfather Salvatore "Toto" Riina — who ordered the murder of Italian prosecutors and law enforcement officials who tried to bring him down — died Friday in the prison wing of a hospital in northern Italy.

Riina had reportedly been suffering from heart disease and Parkinson's. At the time of his death, a day after he turned 87, he been in a medically induced coma after two operations for cancer.

Known as "The Beast," for his brutality, Riina was serving 26 life sentences in a prison in Parma for having ordered the deaths of more than 150 people between 1969 and 1992.

According to The Associated Press: "He went into hiding in 1969 after being ordered by the state to leave Sicily after he had finished serving a five-year prison sentence for Mafia association. During his decades on the lam, the only picture authorities had of the fugitive was more than 30 years old."

Riina led a reign of terror in the decades leading to his arrest, most notoriously ordering the murder of a kidnapped 13-year-old in an attempt to stop the boy's father from revealing mob secrets. When one mobster testified after being flipped by prosecutors, Riina ordered 11 of his relatives killed in retaliation.

The Guardian writes:

"The deadly campaign ultimately backfired on Cosa Nostra and after bombs killed Italy's two leading anti-mafia magistrates, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, two months apart in 1992, the state stepped up its crackdown on Sicily's mafiosi.

Riina was captured in a Palermo apartment six months after Borsellino and his police escorts were killed by a car bomb. A native of Corleone, a Sicilian hilltop town near Palermo and a mafia stronghold, he refused to collaborate with law enforcement after his capture."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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