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Italian organized crime boss Rocco Morabito along with three other inmates escaped from a Uruguayan prison in the middle of the night, the country's interior ministry said Monday.

The men were able to get "through the roof" at midnight and robbed a nearby farmer in their escape, the interior ministry's statement read.

Morabito, 52, had been awaiting extradition at the Montevideo prison to be brought back to Italy on international drug-trafficking charges.

Italian prosecutors say he played a large role in drug-trafficking operations between South America and Milan, and earned the nickname the "cocaine king of Milan" in Italian media.

The organized-crime kingpin, believed to be a key figure in the Ndrangheta mob from the Calabria, had been on the run from Italy since 1994 and faced 30 years in prison.

In 2017, he was arrested in Montevideo at a hotel after he had been living under an alias and using a Brazilian passport for a decade.

The three men who escaped with him were all awaiting extradition to either Argentina or Brazil for various crimes, including murder and theft, Uruguay's interior ministry said.

They were identified as Leonardo Abel Sinopoli Azcoaga, Matías Sebastián Acosta González and Bruno Ezequiel Díaz. 

Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini criticized the Montevideo government for the escape, tweeting, "It’s disconcerting and serious that a criminal like Rocco Morabito, a boss of Ndrangheta, has managed to escape from a Uruguay prison while waiting to be extradited to Italy."

He said he was seeking an immediate explanation from Uruguay about the escape and pledged to continue to hunt for Morabito.

Contributing: The Associated Press. Follow USA TODAY's Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller

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