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Mafia villas in Rome demolished in effort to rout organised crime from city

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Mafia villas in Rome demolished in effort to rout organised crime from city
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The demolition of several Mafia villas around Italy went off with all the bravado one might expect.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, on a break from his governmental work, was at the scene riding a bulldozer, metaphorising his no-holds-barred fight against organised crime.

The demolitions began last week when eight homes built illegally by the Casamonica mafia clan - a prolific family in the Italian crime underworld renowned for its violence and gaudy lifestyle - were brought down.

The group, which has ethnic Roma roots, reportedly runs drugs, fraud and extortion rings in the Italian capital.

Salvini, whose hard-right League party is vehemently anti-immigrant and who has courted controversy with his plans to carry out a census of Italy's Roma population, hailed the demolitions as a great success.

Mayor of Rome Virginia Raggi said the villas demolished last week violated Rome's construction and landscape laws and some "incorporated whole sections of the historic Felice Aqueduct".

She said: "Today is an historic day for the city of Rome and for Romans. We are putting an end to years of illegality and are sending a strong statement to the Casamonica clan."

Those evicted in last week's demolitions said they had been given no prior warning and that they had been left with nowhere to take their children.

On Monday, in between meetings with Italian Prime Minister to discuss the country's budget plans following warnings from the EU, Salvini took a moment out of his busy schedule to oversee the demolition of the largest villa.

Some consider his involvement in this venture against the Casamonica clan as a bid for popularity, others a legal ploy for his 'persecution' of the Romani.