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Last updated at 13:50 GMT, Friday, 24 January 2014

Mafia plot: Tower of Pisa

Summary

24 January 2014

The Mafia planned to blow up the world-famous Leaning Tower of Pisa, according to a former member of the Italian criminal organisation who is on trial in Sicily. Back in the early 1990s the gangsters carried out a series of deadly bombings in a war with the authorities, who were trying to break their power.

Reporter:

Alan Johnston

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is an iconic Italian monument

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This trial is attempting to get to the bottom of the scheming of the Mafia more than twenty years ago. And it's just heard from someone who may know a great deal.

He's Gioacchino La Barbera, a Mafia man involved in the killing of a prominent magistrate. But he switched sides. And he's a witness now for the prosecution.

He said that after murdering the magistrate, the Mafia looked for more targets. And it plotted to blow up the magnificent, ancient tower in Pisa. The Mafiosi were aiming to strike a major psychological blow at the height of their war with the state.

La Barbera said the plot only failed because the authorities found a cache of explosives that was earmarked for the job. Of course, the credibility of this kind of witness has to be questioned. He's a man whose life has been steeped in organised crime.

On the other hand, at about the same time as the alleged plot in Pisa, the Mafia did bomb the famous Uffizi art gallery in Florence. It was clearly in the mood to strike at the kind of historic monuments that are the pride of Italy.

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Vocabulary

get to the bottom of

find out the truth about

scheming

plotting

magistrate

an official who acts as a judge in a court for small crimes

Mafiosi

members of the Mafia

cache

hidden store of things

earmarked

chosen and kept for a particular purpose (usually used about money)

credibility

the quality of being trusted or believed in

steeped in

completely surrounded by or involved in

alleged

said but not yet proven

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