A police operation to smash a nightclub protection racket operating mainly in Piraeus, including some major players on the criminal scene, was going on well into the evening yesterday with considerable success, sources told Kathimerini. Officers from a special squad which investigates crimes involving extortion and blackmail had conducted a probe lasting several months before last night’s raid and had identified some 36 suspects that they wanted to bring in for questioning. Several arrests were made last night, according to police sources, but exact numbers were not immediately clear. However, it is thought that several key figures of gangs suspected of dealing cocaine in various Piraeus nightclubs and charging owners protection money were among those picked up. The men arrested are also being linked to at least one murder in 2003 and several attempted murders in incidents that are thought to have been related to a turf war between gangs over control of protection rackets. The gangs are also thought to have been responsible for a series of explosions. Yesterday’s raids, according to officers, are as significant as an operation in the summer of 2002 when 40 people were targeted.