Sicilian mobsters are setting fire to cats and sending the scurrying, burning felines into dry forests to spread the inferno in a sick scheme to make money from reforestation programs, The Times of London reported.
“One of the mob’s arson techniques is to tie a petrol-soaked rag to the tail of a cat and set fire to it,” Giuseppe Antoci, director of the Nebrodi regional park, told the newspaper. “As its tail burns, the cat flees in terror into the undergrowth in the woods, setting fire to everything in touches.
“That makes it harder for investigators to figure out where the fire was started and, since the cat is eventually incinerated, they never find what caused the fire.”
To add to the chaos, the fires were set just as a seasonal African windstorm – called a sirocco – blew through southern Italy, feeding the flames and spreading the destruction even further.
About 14,000 acres were burned in 800 fires set during a 48-hour span earlier this month, The Daily Beast reported. Anti-Mafia investigators have speculated the blazes may be part of a racket to make money from investments in reforestation programs or could be used to prove the worth of the Italian forestry job sector, which the Mafia has reportedly infiltrated en masse.
Earlier in June, 180 forestry workers convicted of Mafia-related crimes or who were being probed for Mafia collusion were fired by Sicily regional governor Rosario Crocetta.
“This is a political mafia attack,” Crocetta told reporters. “The goal is not only the forests and land speculation…This is also an attack on a government that fights the Mafia; it is a frightening mob attack.”
The concept of cats as incendiary devices appeared in the 2002 film "Sweet Home Alabama." In it, Reese Witherspoon's character was described as having strapped dynamite to a terminally ill cat that ran into a bank, blowing up the building. In the movie, the cat survives.