UK & World News
Australia: Police Raid Hells Angels' Lairs
More than 700 Australian police have swooped on Hells Angels clubhouses and properties and seized guns, ammunition, drugs and cash in a crackdown on biker gangs linked to organised crime.
Officers stormed 59 fortified premises across Melbourne, Victoria, on Thursday in an unprecedented move amid an escalating war between the biker outfit and the rival Comanchero gang that has sparked public clashes with firearms.
Sky News Australia's Melbourne reporter Greg Thompson said: "It comes after a pretty intense couple of weeks between rivals.
"There have been a number of drive-by shootings, explosives left at gyms and tattoo parlours."
Speaking from the scene of a raid in Thomastown, he added: "Police say it is a serious situation and that they are doing everything they can to locate these military-style weapons and get them off the streets of Melbourne."
New anti-fortification laws came into effect on Sunday, which allow police to tear down barriers, cameras and booby traps.
"If they're affiliated with the Hells Angels, they've been targeted," Acting Deputy Commissioner Steve Fontana said, conceding that they had yet to locate their main target - military-style weapons - which reports said were AK-47s or M1 carbines.
But he said officers remained "determined to track them down".
He said the co-ordinated operation involving police helicopters and sniffer dogs, which started at 4am, was the largest on a single motorcycle gang in Victoria state's history.
"This sends a strong warning to other outlaw motorcycle gangs - if you are going to get involved in these violent firearms-related incidents in public places, we are going to come down strong," he added.
Some 13 people were arrested including Hells Angels sergeant-at-arms Peter "Skitzo" Hewat.
At one property, so much ammunition was recovered that a truck was needed to take it away.
Biker gangs linked to organised crime, particularly drugs, are a growing problem across Australia.
Earlier this year, police launched a series of similar dawn raids across Sydney.
Australia's worst outbreak of biker violence was a 1984 shoot-out between the Bandidos and Comancheros in the car park of a Sydney pub, in which six gang members and a 15-year-old girl died.
Tensions also spilled over in a deadly brawl between the Comancheros and Hells Angels at the city's domestic airport in 2009, with one biker bludgeoned to death in front of horrified passengers.