Mafia 'boss of bosses' Salvatore 'Toto' Riina has died in the hospital while serving multiple life sentences as the mastermind of a bloody strategy to assassinate Italian prosecutors and law enforcement trying to bring down the Cosa Nostra, Italian media reported Friday. He was 87.
Riina died hours after the Justice Minister had allowed his family members bedside visits Thursday, which was his birthday, after he had been placed in a medically induced coma. Italian media said his health had deteriorated following two recent surgeries.
Riina, one of Sicily's most notorious Mafia bosses, was serving 26 life sentences for murder convictions as a powerful Cosa Nostra boss. He was captured in Palermo, Sicily's capital, in 1993 and imprisoned under a law that requires strict security for top mobsters, including being detained in isolated sections of prisons with limited time outside their cells.
Prosecutors accused Riina of masterminding a strategy, carried out over several years, to assassinate Italian prosecutors, police officials and others who were going after Cosa Nostra when he allegedly held the helm as the so-called "boss of bosses."
The bloodbath campaign ultimately backfired on Cosa Nostra.
After bombs killed Italy's two leading anti-Mafia magistrates, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, two months apart in 1992, the state stepped up its crackdown on Sicily's Mafiosi.
Riina was captured in a Palermo apartment six months after Borsellino and his police escorts were killed by a car bomb. A native of Corleone, a Sicilian hill and Mafia stronghold, he steadfastly refused to collaborate with law enforcement after his capture.
Riina was incarcerated at a Milan prison before his hospitalization. In July, a court denied a request by Riina's family to transfer the convicted mobster to house arrest because of his ailing health.