Italian police have arrested over 20 alleged members of a dangerous Nigerian cult gang called the Black Axe.
The suspects are accused of protection and prostitution rackets, drug dealing and human trafficking.
They were apprehended after a member of the gang became an informant and revealed the secrets of the criminal network, including the identities of senior members.
The anti-mafia squad in Palermo, Sicily, who carried out the nationwide operation, were able to pick up the head of the group’s Italian operation in Padua.
In recent months, there have also been arrests in Torino and Milan.
According to reports, the Black Axe have forged links with the Italian mafia, the Cosa Nosta and the gangsters import drugs which are then distributed by the Nigerians.
The rise of the criminal syndicate, has been linked to increase in migrants crossing over from North Africa.