Italy mastermind convicted in Duisburg massacre

By NICOLE WINFIELD | July 12, 2011 | 8:29 AM EDT

Court president Bruno Muscolo reads the verdict over the massacre in which six Italian men were gunned down in Duisburg, Germany, in Locri, southern Italy, Tuesday, July 12, 2011. News reports say the court sentenced the ringleader of the massacre Giovanni Strangio and other seven people to life terms for their role in the violent mob feud that culminated in the Duirsburg slayings. The six Italian men were gunned down Aug. 15, 2007, as they left a birthday party at an Italian restaurant in the western German city. (AP Photo/Adriana Sapone)

ROME (AP) — The ringleader of a gangland style massacre of six people in Germany was convicted Tuesday and sentenced to life in prison for an attack that highlighted the international reach of Italy's Calabrian mafia.

Giovanni Strangio was one of eight people convicted and given Italy's stiffest sentence for their roles in a violent feud that culminated in the 2007 slayings in the western German city of Duisburg, the court clerk's office in the southern city of Locri said.

Three other people were convicted and sentenced to terms ranging from nine to 12 years, while three more were acquitted, the court said.

Six Italian men were gunned down Aug. 15, 2007, as they left a birthday party at an Italian restaurant. Prosecutors said the massacre was part of a long-running feud between two clans of the 'ndrangheta organized crime syndicate, which is based in the southern Italian region of Calabria.

The 'ndrangheta is today considered more powerful than the Sicilian Mafia and has become one of the world's biggest cocaine traffickers.

The feud, which pitted the Nirta-Strangio families against the Pelle-Vottari-Romeo families in the tiny town of San Luca, cooled from 2000 to 2006 but erupted again when Maria Strangio, the wife of one of the presumed heads of the clan, was killed on Dec. 25, 2006.

Strangio, Maria's cousin, was arrested in 2009 in Amsterdam on charges he masterminded and executed the Duisburg massacre in retaliation, one of the first known times the 'ndrangheta had exported a vendetta.

Italian law allows prosecution of crimes that occur in other countries if Italian citizens are the victims.

Prosecutor Nicola Gratteri welcomed the convictions and said they made clear that the 'ndrangheta has spread its tentacles outside of southern Italy.

"The clans are able to manage power, especially economic power," the ANSA news agency quoted Gratteri as saying after the verdicts were read out. "With this sentence, it is now clear that the 'ndrangheta has left the confines of Calabria and Italy and is strongly rooted elsewhere."