In the wake of the deadly Islamic State (Isis) terror attacks in Paris and amid fears of similar atrocities carried out in major Western cities the Mafia, perhaps one of the more unlikely guardians of US liberty, has warned jihadi militants they will have a fight on their hands if they target New York.

Speaking on NBC News Giovanni Gambino, an alleged member of the Gambino crime family, said Sicilian Mafia networks in New York were working to protect the city's inhabitants from violence, claiming the human intelligence they collected and their flexible hierarchical structures offered a bulwark against IS terror.

"The Mafia has a bad reputation, but much of that's undeserved," Gambino said. "As with everything in life, there are good, bad and ugly parts – the rise of global terrorism gives the Mafia a chance to show its good side.

"The world is dangerous today, but people living in New York neighborhoods with Sicilian connections should feel safe," he added. "We make sure our friends and families are protected from extremists and terrorists, especially the brutal, psychopathic organisation that calls itself the Islamic State."

New York City Police
New Yorkers need not rely solely on their police for protection from Isis: the Mafia are also here Michael Graae/Getty Images

Gambino added the FBI and other US government agencies working to provide security were limited in their capabilities, whereas the influence of the Mafia within local communities meant they could stop jihadi groups from setting up clandestine terror cells.

Gambino is currently marketing his novel Son of Omerta. Born and raised in Sicily, his family moved to Brooklyn in 1988.

The Mafia has a history of aligning its interests with the state in times of national crisis. During the Second World War the US struck a secret deal with imprisoned Mafia don Charles "Lucky" Luciano to stop German and Italian spies from entering the US through the New York waterfront.

Luciano had his sentence commuted after the Cosa Nostra agreed to provide intelligence to the US Navy on the infiltration of New York City by foreign elements.