Harassed Squad Carabinieri Calabrian hunters (first part): beyond courage

(To Lia Pasqualina Stani)

"For me, Calabria means moral category, before geographic expression. Calabrian in its best meaning means Rupe, that is, character"(Leonida Rèpaci).

They are not the protagonists of an epic or a colossal American poem, they are about 90 men who have a training complete military and investigative and operational training that allows him to firmly represent the state in the southern end of the "boot". They support the territorial departments in the investigative activity and autonomously carry out a precise service activity in a "mountain" environment like the Calabrian one: to search for and capture the fugitives of the most powerful and bloody Italian criminal organization of mafia connotation in the world, the 'Ndrangheta. And the Santa and Picnic (o Honorable company) although born and developed since the last century in Calabria, it is certainly not a source of pride for this land, victim and accomplice at the same time: “there is no leaf that the 'Ndrangheta does not want”.

Drug trafficking is the core business of the 'ndrangheta. Its danger is in the management of arms trafficking. Its sprawling structure also allows it to manage human trafficking, the disposal of toxic and radioactive waste, to practice extortion and usury, to condition contracts and electoral votes.

It has a consensus network at the local and regional politics level without distinction of deployment. The sectors in which it seeks and finds complicity range from agriculture to health, from public administration to the Church, to real estate entrepreneurship that is used for money laundering.

The strength of Calabrian organized crime lies in the 'ndrine, gangs of criminals run by a family (or by blood relatives) and by affiliated subjects who control a territory (town or city district). The marriages between the various clans have a high symbolic value: they weld the relationships between Mafia families to extend their power or seal the end of a feud. The name of a 'ndrina is nothing more than the surname of the family or in some cases the surnames of several families. Each 'ndrina has full powers as well as control over the territory that belongs to it in which it manages any illegal activity. And it is no coincidence that the judiciary identifies them as real "holding" with a "president" (the capobastone) and an "administrative board".

I Hunters of Calabria they are Carabinieri who live a daily battle in the stronghold of the most powerful Calabrian ndrine: the Aspromonte. From the Calabrian crossroads, they immerse themselves in the impervious areas of Locride, in the woods and in the vast expanses of orchards, in the plains of the Tyrrhenian area and in the cavities of villas, houses, ovens or stables, to locate the fugitives, silently identifying the most absurd shelters or bunkers where bosses try to escape justice.

Slapping a fugitive is not easy or impossible: i Hunters of Calabria they know the Calabrian territory and the Aspromonte extensively better than anyone else (also supported by the cartography of the Military Geographical Institute - IGM), except for the shepherds of the area. The experience gained over the years allows to know the cultural and social reality of the region, together with the dynamics linked to the various crimes. All operational activities concluded with the capture of a fugitive lasted days, weeks or years, they are the result of a work carried out with constancy, courage and speed of execution.

In 1970, with the development of the phenomenon of kidnapping for the purpose of extortion, the weapon adapted to the surrounding reality and the type of crime to be countered, by setting up special units, called squadrons, destined to act in Calabria to deal - also - with the search for fugitives and the theft of livestock. The kidnappers, after having captured the victims (mostly belonging to families of wealthy entrepreneurs in northern Italy), transferred them to the Aspromonte. The shelters, caves, ravines, caverns or recesses scattered in the immense rocky area covered by dense vegetation, became places of detention awaiting redemption.

Since their establishment the squadrons were equipped with dog units, departments on horseback and helicopters, to be able to carry out tight and capillary raids in every inaccessible and malagevole of the Aspromonte. The institutional bodies of the Carabinieri, to perfect the activities of the former squadrons, created a specialized high-bay department able to reach every place of the Aspromonte quickly and quietly. In a normal roundup, it was often impossible to identify a place where a kidnapped was hiding. Or one squadron approaching it was easily detectable by those who knew the mountain. Reported their arrival in time, the fugitive moved away or the hostage taken elsewhere.

The choice of the name - Carabinieri Squadron. Calabrian Hunters - it is not accidental, it is a reference to Hunters of the Alps by Giuseppe Garibaldi: brigade of volunteers who in the 2 ° war of independence flanked the regular units of the Sardinian army. The tactics of fighting were inspired hunters Garibaldini who foresaw, after having been on enemy territory, the use of guerrilla warfare: a method of combat that Garibaldi learned and perfected in South America. THE hunters they were lightly armed units, present in every army already in antiquity. They had tasks of infiltration, reconnaissance and disturbance of enemy forces. It was the king of Prussia Frederick II who spread the name of "hunters".

"Sky vigilance, ex-coercion"is the motto of the hunters. Since their birth, they wanted carabinieri able to arrive in a suspicious place without being seen and able to remain long days isolated from everything and everyone, able to act independently without any support or contribution from other sectors of the weapon .

They are men able to camouflage themselves within a wooded area, able to wait, patient and unseen, a signal or a human presence that leads to the arrest of a wanted person.

Like any military specialty in addition to the uniform order, it also squadron it possesses a distinctive distinctive element that diversifies it, of which the components are proud to be identified with it. For the carabinieri hunters of Calabria it is the red beret that each of them jealously guards in one of the pockets of the camouflage trousers, when not wearing it.

My journey to reach it Carabinieri Squadron. Calabrian Hunters begins along Salerno-Reggio Calabria. Traveling alone is the most liberating experience of our lives, often on the way we are forced to think: "To tell someone, I have to meet him somehow, I have to fall in his shoes. I have an imperative in my heart, look closely to figure out what's happening". Arrived in Vibo Valentia, at the operational logistics base in the "Luigi Razza" Military Airport, headquarters of the Squadron, I understand that to document this department belonging to an Armed Forces with over 200 years of history behind it, it can not be enough to write, living just words.

Affirming i hunters carabinieri in service activities, both day and night is a privilege: Calabria faces 2 seas, the Tyrrhenian and the Ionian to the Strait of Messina that separates it from Sicily. The choice, not casual, to place the Squadron at the airport of Vibo Valentia, favors the operations of the department. The district is located just a few steps away from the Aspromonte and the Serre Vibonesi. THE hunters carabinieri operate in pre-established areas: each squadron has an area of ​​intervention, a precise surface of the Calabrian land bounded, in which it exercises its jurisdiction. In this capillary control, it works by coordinating with the local territorial commands.

In addition to technical preparation and experience, I believe that the strength of every man of the squadron is really in the character, from the Greek (transliterated) “charaktér”, which means “imprint”. Just like all the footprints that every carabiniere hunter leaves through the paths he travels and those that, sometimes for obvious reasons, he cancels on the way back. Daily paths in which, with every step, he penetrates the Calabrian territory. The work of these men takes the form of sudden infiltrations both day and night. Targeted flattening for direct interventions from observation posts for the surveillance of suspicious places and people, wanted or not, who carry out illegal actions, even in the absence of immediate intervention planning. And long waits to capture the "prey".

They are men with a strong inner discipline, it is appreciated by walking for hours, with a squadron, in rugged mountain areas, crossing the rivers, dry for most of the year and which are filled with water in the rainy seasons, up to arrive in the flat areas. Many searches in abandoned farmhouses. Finding a den of weapons or ammunition is essential. All operations take place in any weather condition. Equipped to resist in any environment and at any temperature, they blend in to blend with the territory.

Multiple tasks of the squadron that I will have the benefit of looking closely to tell you about the formation, the structure, the use of the squadrons and the way they train: from the shooting range to the fast rope with the8 ° nucleus helicopters, from the work done with the dog units located in the same military airport to the activities carried out by the API (First Intervention Aliquots) of the Arma also drawn from the squadron.

When the commander of the squadron, the ten. with the. Maurizio Biasin introduces me to his men, I notice their careful and proud gaze. They are apparently rough but at the same time deeply affable. Calabria is a land that forges the temperament of these soldiers who, with steadfast nerves and perseverance, carry out their work with speed and flexibility, as well as with technical and tactical preparation. A mix of features that, if deployed and exploited to the fullest, produces successes.

The arrest of a fugitive is a victory for everyone. And that's why the presence of the hunters carabinieri in this region exerts a constant pressure that annoys, hampers and surprises Calabrian malaffing.

Lo Carabinieri Squadron. Calabrian Hunters has, albeit in the long run, a specific objective to be achieved: to eradicate the 'ndrangheta which is not, and will never be an intrinsic weakness in the action of the state.

I hunters they also face a cultural battle every day: to win a mindset that is based on the prevarication climate that requires a decisive intervention of the state. The Ndrangheta is a human phenomenon that evolves, either because of an internal push or for a repressive state action that forces changes to the "vertices".

Calabria is a land that must be returned first to Italy and then to the Calabrian, there must be no border line marked by the widespread fear of these criminal phenomena.

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(photo of the author)