Police in Italy arrested roughly 30 people suspected of being members of a Nigerian gang that was known for carrying out rape and ritual murders, the BBC reported Monday.

Authorities carried out raids across 14 Italian provinces in connection to the Nigerian Black Axe mafia syndicate, a secret society that emerged in the 1970s with the aim of “liberating” the black race, according to the BBC.

Italian police arrest 30 suspected members of Nigerian Black Axe mafia https://t.co/xjAygW5uLc

— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) April 26, 2021

The group was known for its brutal violence before it went on to build a powerful network overseas. Police say the suspects they arrested face about 100 charges, including drug trafficking, human trafficking, prostitution and internet fraud, the BBC reported.

The suspected Black Axe members are believed to have used Bitcoin to conduct financial transactions on the dark web to buy cloned credit cards. Most of the crimes the alleged gang members were charged with were committed on the internet, Reuters reported

All of the suspects arrested were Nigerian nationals, according to Reuters. (RELATED: Mafioso Caught By Officials After Uploading Cooking Videos To YouTube)

Among those arrested was a 35-year-old man believed to be the group’s leader in Italy. 

“There is evidence that the members had a direct connection with the Nigerian gang, drawing on the same vocabulary, symbols and affiliation rituals,” Italian police said, according to the BBC.

The secret society, which is banned from Nigeria, used to have a political motivation. Decades after the group originated, it became known for murders and sexual assaults, the BBC reported. However, they continue to operate on college campuses in Nigeria despite the crackdown on members, who are promised protection from other gangs by Black Axe leaders.

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