Police searching for No. 1 Cosa Nosta fugitive, nab his sister in big sweep in Sicily

Police searching for Italy's No. 1 Cosa Nostra fugitive have arrested 30 people, including three of his relatives, accused of helping to run the crime clan's rackets while the powerful Mafia boss is on the run.

Investigators called Friday's pre-dawn sweep in Sicily a major step in their quest to capture Matteo Messina Denaro, who has been at large since 1993.

His sister, Patrizia Messina Denaro, was arrested at her home in Castelvetrano, a town in the crime clan's stronghold. The others taken into custody included a nephew and a cousin.

The capture of other Mafia fugitives has left Messino Denaro as the top Cosa Nostra figure being sought.

In Palermo, Carabinieri commander Mario Parente said: "We have never come as close to Matteo Messina Denaro as today."