The Italian cabinet has sacked the entire local government of the southern city of Reggio Calabria in order to prevent it from coming under the direct control of the local mafia.

Reggio Calabria's mayor, Demetrio Arena,  and all 30 city councillors were dismissed under the provision announced on Tuesday in Rome by Anna Maria Cancellieri, the country's interior minister.

While smaller city administrations have been dissolved for similar reasons, Cancellieri said this was the first time the administration of a provincial capital had been dissolved.

The action was taken after inspectors from Rome determined that a number of councillors of the city, which has a population of 180,000 people, had ties to the 'Ndrangheta, the local version of the Sicilian mafia.

The 'Ndrangheta has overtaken Sicily's Cosa Nostra as Italy's most feared organised crime group. It makes most of its money from drug trafficking.

The move, which had been expected for months, means the city will be run by three government-appointed commissioners for 18 months until elections are held.

Source: Agencies