An Italian 'Ndrangheta mafia boss hid from police in a secret attic after a raid on a Rome home, evading capture for 20 days.

Domenico Antonio Mollica, 47, only came down from his hiding place after the fire service began tearing it open.

Mollica fled to the attic after a police raid on the Rome property where he was living, in which alleged accomplices Placido Scriva and Domenico Morabito were arrested, reports Rai.

Police were unable to locate Mollica, but were convinced he was hiding out in the property, so brought in the fire brigade to help locate him.

Fire brigade officers detected the presence of the attic by a draft and external air vents, and when they began to smash their way in, Mollica gave himself up.

The attic's entrance was disguised by a built-in wardrobe and accessed with a rope.

Inside the attic police found a bed, water and items including a picture of the Madonna of Polsi, a sanctuary in southern Italy where 'Ndrangheta bosses convene annually.

The arrest comes amid a major crackdown on the crime syndicate, which is said to be Italy's most powerful.

Based in Calabria in southern Italy, the gang is believed to me among the largest cocaine importers in Europe.

The latest operation has seen Italian police arrest 163 suspected members of the gang across Italy, and seize 1,300 Ib of drugs.

Experts say that in recent months the gang has attempted to seize control of Rome's drugs market.

"The 'Ndrangheta considers Rome an integral part of its criminal project. Some members have said: 'Rome is the future'," anti-mafia magistrate Michele Prestipino told local media.

"The Rome marketplace is strategic and helps the clans accumulate criminal and economic power."