MILAN (Reuters) - Police arrested 49 suspected mobsters in a raid on the outskirts of Milan on Tuesday, including five women, one of whom is accused of leading a local unit of the fearsome 'Ndrangheta mafia.
It's rare for women to have leadership roles in the male-dominated world of the mafia.
The woman, accused of ruling a 'Ndrangheta unit in Rho, a town on the outskirts of Milan, was "even more ruthless than the men", Milan prosecutor Alessandra Cerretti said in a news conference, according to local media.
The mobsters face accusations including extortion, drug trafficking, violence and arson, the police said in a statement, adding that some used to scare people by threatening to send them animal body parts.
The investigation showed the extent to which the 'Ndrangheta, Italy's most powerful mafia organisation, has extended its reach from its southern heartlands in Calabria to the industrialised north, said Francesco Messina, director of the Italian police's Central Anti-Crime Directorate.
In a separate operation, police arrested another 37 people linked to the Camorra mafia in a raid outside the city of Naples, following a three-year investigation into extortion and drug trafficking.
Underscoring fears over the growing reach of organised crime, the Italian government on Tuesday dissolved the municipal council in the town of Anzio, just south of Rome, saying it had been infiltrated by the mafia.
(Reporting by Agnieszka Flak, editing by Alvise Armellini and Jon Boyle)