In his opinion, the mafia is better positioned than security bodies such as the FBI or Homeland Security to give New Yorkers the protection they need.
He also said that ISIL fears the Sicilian mafia, and this is one of the main reasons why the jihadists have not tried to set up any underground cells in Sicily.
Michele Riccardi believes his statement, first and foremost, represents a way to improve the mafia’s reputation.
“It can be easily understood if think of what the aim of the Italian mafias is. One of the primary objectives of the Italian mafias is to present themselves as a shelter for people,” Riccardi points out.
He doubts the mafia is in a better position than law enforcement agencies to combat ISIL, although in a way, organized crime groups may be regarded as “a sort of opponent [or] a competitor of this terrorist group”.
One must remember that during the 1940s, dons and their subordinates aided the Americans in the fight against fascism and Nazis around Italy, especially in the south, by providing logistical support and so on, Riccardi noted.
However, there is an obvious limitation to the implications: crime families must maintain a certain level of control over a certain territory.
“This can work somehow only in those areas where the mafia has a really big [presence and] strict control of the territory, and I think this is not the case with New York,” the researcher highlights.
It's equally absurd to assume the mafia may be relied upon to protect European capitals, he adds.
Nevertheless, certain parts of southern Italy could be kept off-limits to ISIL, the researcher notes.
On the other hand, there is the possibility that ISIL could facilitate mafia activity, the researcher suggests.
“If you think about, for example, the firearms market… Evidence and intelligence suggest that apparently these [ISIL] terrorists took their firearms from ex-Balkan organized crime groups,” Riccardi explained.
Therefore, both mafia and jihadists may behave “with the same intensity… and effectiveness” by governments and law enforcement agencies, the researcher concludes.