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Danilo Dolci, an Italian sociologist who fought the Mafia and whose research on Sicilian farmers became a model for development studies abroad, died Tuesday near Palermo. He was 73.

Officials at the Partinico hospital said he died of heart failure.

Dolci was born in the northern port city of Trieste in 1924 but focused his research on Italy's impoverished deep south. In the late 1950s he founded a center near Palermo for hands-on study of the causes of the meager living standards of farmers in the region.

Thousands of sociology students from northern Europe, in particular Scandinavian countries, flocked to the center, where Dolci also spoke out against the Mafia's covert control of agriculture in Sicily.

His accusations against organized crime were widely criticized but helped authorities to track down and capture several Mafia members.

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