Hunt for last big Cosa Nostra boss finds how secret messages were buried on Sicilian farms

Italian investigators say they've discovered how the No. 1 Cosa Nostra fugitive communicates with henchmen using written messages buried in dirt or hidden under boulders on Sicilian sheep ranches.

In pre-dawn raids Monday in western Sicily, police arrested 11 men suspected of helping Matteo Messina Denaro stay in command despite being on the run since 1993.

Investigators described how Messina Denaro disdains telecommunications and relies on handwritten notes, or "pizzini,'" to relay orders. They said the notes were wadded tight, covered in tape and hidden under rocks or dug into soil until go-betweens retrieved them. The messages were ordered destroyed after being read.

Messina Denaro was convicted in absentia as a mastermind of 1993 bombings in Rome, Florence and Milan aimed at intimidating authorities cracking down on Cosa Nostra.