Police worried shootings linked to turf war

By Greg Ansley

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Sydney gunfight latest in string of attacks crime squad believes may be work of gangs

A wild early-morning shootout yesterday between two cars in western Sydney has raised fears that armed thugs are fighting a turf war over drugs with little concern for bystanders.

The Greenfield Park gunfight, during which at least one bullet hit a nearby house, is the latest in a long and frightening series that has killed four men, injured others, and peppered homes and businesses.

On Monday, two homes were sprayed with bullets: police said the gunmen had been "sending a message".

No clear picture has yet emerged, and police have yet to confirm the latest shootings were connected. How many of the earlier incidents were related to drugs or gang warfare is also uncertain.

Some clearly are not - such as the wounding of two men during a domestic dispute last August - but the level of violence and the involvement of bike and ethnic gangs in many of the shootings has alarmed police.

In the past six months four men have been killed, including Lone Wolf bikie Neal Todorovski, 37, on January 4, four others have been injured, 15 homes and two businesses have been shot at, there have been three running gunfights between cars, and six drive-by shootings have reportedly involved Hells Angels and rival Nomads bikies.

Police suspect the latest shootings may involve Middle Eastern crime gangs, which have become prominent in Sydney over the past decade. Their arrival was marked by an attack on the Lakemba police station in 1998 by the now-defunct Lebanese DK gang.

Last year an inquest found that 29-year-old Ramon Khananvah, a diner at Fairfield's Babylon Cafe in western Sydney, was probably the victim of a narcotics turf war.

He died when still-unidentified masked gunmen sprayed the cafe with semi-automatic handguns in October 1995. Although no one has been charged, police suspect the killers were linked to the Dlasthr (Last Hour) gang.

The latest shootings are being investigated by the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad, established in 2006 to counter a growing wave of violence.

The squad's Strike Force Lowland, formed several weeks ago to investigate the increasing supply and distribution of drugs in the St George area, is working to determined if the car gunfight and the attack on homes in Arncliffe and Auburn were related, and if they were linked to the drugs trade.

On Monday night gunmen pumped shots from a car into a home in Auburn, where 10 people, including a number of women, were gathered.

A woman suffered minor injuries when shards from an item hit by a bullet cut her leg. One the occupants, identifying himself only as "Yaghi", told news.com.au that a bullet punched through the front door and struck close to his father's head: "It was like something from a Hollywood story."

He said the attack must have been a case of mistaken identity.

Shortly afterwards gunmen fired more than 30 shots at the Arncliffe property, where there were 15 people, but only one bullet struck the house. Most hit a car outside.

"Certainly a message was being sent," Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad head Detective Superintendent Deb Wallace told reporters.

"It's not unusual in organised crime that parties who are battling over territory or money or profit often come into dispute with each other. It will be one area that we are considering."

Early yesterday morning the violence continued when gunmen in a Toyota 4WD and a white sedan fired at each other in Greenfield Park, with one shot striking a nearby house.

Police said they believed the shootout was pre-arranged.

"They didn't happen to come across each other by chance," Superintendent Peter Lennon said.

Police attempts to stem the rising tide of shootings across Sydney have been complicated by the number and complexity of drug and turf wars between a variety of gangs.

Traditional outlaw motorcycle gangs continue their warfare: battles have waged between Hells Angels and Comancheros - killing Comancheros associate Anthony Zervas in a brawl at Sydney Airport in 2009 - and between Nomads and new gang Notorious.

Notorious has reportedly been moving into Kings Cross and has also battled the Bandidos outlaw club.

And on the rise are numerous street gangs, many ethnic and some with Islamic agendas, including the Muslim Brotherhood Movement and Asesinoz MC, with others such as Lads from Tonga, Loyal Samoan Blood, Soldiers in Red and Bloods Never Surrender.

- NZ Herald

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