The pictures were taken in the Sicilian capital, Palermo, during the 1980s and early 90s by a team of photographers working for a local newspaper.

"There were four or five of us," said photographer Letizia Battaglia, 71.
 
"We were tuned into police radio frequencies and we spent our days waiting for 'it' to happen.

"Then we raced off on our Vespas to be first on the scene," said Battaglia, an anti-Mafia campaigner who became a politician in Palermo.

The stark black and white photographs show bullet-ridden bodies and pools of blood.

Some of the faces of the dead are shown with eyes wide open, as if surprised by death.

In other images, friends and relatives grieve over corpses while people crowd around the scene with expressions of curiosity and resignation.

The photographs document an era known as the "Palermo war", when the Corleone Clan – led by Toto 'the beast' Riina and recently captured Bernardo Provenzano -  fought their way to power on the island, leaving hundreds dead.

Mafia members, interfering judges and police officers, local politicians and young drug dealers were gunned down, often in broad daylight and in public places.

"You could have five murders in the same day," said Battaglia.

"The work was exhausting but you couldn't stand by with your arms folded, with our little Mafia on our little island.

"We had to bear witness to this violence and the world had to know."