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They caught one of the most wanted criminals in Europe

An Italian drug trafficker, one of Europe’s most wanted criminals, has been arrested in Syria and extradited to Italy, Italian officials and a Syrian jihadist rebel group said.

The last major drug trafficker from the Naples area still at large, Bruno Carbone, was apprehended as he stepped off a plane Tuesday at Rome’s Ciampino airport, Neapolitan police said in a statement.

Carbone, 45, sentenced in absentia in Italy to 20 years in prison for international drug trafficking on the Spain-Naples-Sicily route, had been on the run since 2003.

Carbone is known as a close associate of Raffaele Imperiale of the Camorata. Imperiale himself, who is considered one of the biggest drug traffickers in the world, was arrested in Dubai in 2021.

It was initially unclear where Carbone was being held, but Italian media reported that he had also been captured in the United Arab Emirates, where he had spent much of his time on the run.

Mohammed Sankari, an official spokesman for the jihadist group Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in northwestern Syria, said Carbone was detained in March “while passing through the ‘liberated’ areas (of the country) … with the aim of reaching the regions under the control of the (Bashar Assad) regime”.

Carbone was extradited after several months of questioning, HTS claimed, with the group also releasing a photo of him.

Carbone’s claims that he is a Mexican national on the run from authorities in his home country for selling fake luxury watches have raised suspicions about his true identity, Mohammed Abdel Rahman told Asharq Al-Awsat, a UK-based Arabic-language publication. Minister of the Interior of the territories controlled by the rebel Salvation Government of Syria.

Emirati officials are believed to have brokered Wednesday’s extradition, Italian newspaper Il Foglio reported.

“Catch me if you can” in Italian

In December 2020, following reports from local authorities, Carbone was claimed to have been arrested in Dubai.

The arrested man turned out to be a businessman from Naples and was released after spending a little more than a month in prison.

HTS claimed that the person arrested at the time was “a person (who) was sent to Bruno’s place as a decoy so that he could escape from the authorities”.

Carbone was in league with Colombian traffickers who supplied cocaine to the Camorra clans, one of the oldest and largest criminal organizations in Italy, located in the general area of ‚Äč‚ÄčNaples.

He is believed to have used the same connections to supply cocaine to another notorious organized crime syndicate, the Ndrangheta in Calabria.

Tahrir al-Sham was formed in 2017 after the merger of several Islamist and jihadist groups, including the Nusra Front.

Although it has publicly separated itself from Al Qaeda, the organization is believed to share similar beliefs with those of the so-called Islamic state.

Its power and influence have been growing in northwestern Syria since the capture of the key city of Idlib in mid-October.

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