Italian police issued 61 arrest warrants Wednesday against purported members of the Naples-based Camorra mob for allegedly running drug and extortion rings in the southern Italian city.

The suspects arrested in and around Naples include nine women and several bosses of the Sarno clan, a top local crime family. Investigators believe the Sarno clan was vying for a leading position in the Camorra, which is the Neapolitan version of the Sicilian Mafia.

"The troubling impression is that the Sarnos want to come forward as the `hegemonic leaders' in the Naples area," the ANSA news agency said, quoting the arrest warrant.

Angelo Mazzagatti of the Carabinieri paramilitary police said the group forced businesses to pay protection money and controlled the local cocaine flow, importing the drug from Spain and dealing it on the streets.

He said 20 of the 61 people named in the warrants already were behind bars on other charges. The 41 others were arrested.

The suspects also are accused of having illegal weapons and creating a mafia-like association.

Mazzagatti said the Sarnos had taken the lead in the city's underworld "not with a mafia war but with strategic alliances."

Italy's Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa praised the operation, calling it a "hard blow" to the Camorra, one of Italy's major crime syndicates.