- The Washington Times - Monday, March 30, 2009

SYDNEY (AP) - A member of the Hells Angels was shot multiple times when his car was sprayed with bullets in Sydney, police said Monday, as they struggle to contain rising violence among Australian biker gangs.

Local media, citing anonymous sources, reported the wounded victim was the brother of a Hells Angel killed during a brawl between rival gangs at Sydney’s airport last week, which triggered fears of reprisal attacks.

Authorities have launched a crackdown on biker gangs, and the New South Wales state government is considering new legislation based on counterterrorism laws that could outlaw motorcycle groups.

New South Wales police refused to release the identity of the man wounded Sunday but confirmed he was a 32-year-old member of the Hells Angels.

Gangs Squad Commander Superintendent Mal Lanyon said the shooter was probably a rival biker.

“I think it’s probably realistic that we will be looking at other motorcycle gangs,” Lanyon told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

During a bail hearing Monday for a biker involved in the airport brawl, police prosecutor Sgt. Phil Weatherall suggested the shooting may have been a bid to silence a potential witness to the airport fight. He did not give any more details.

Last week’s 15-minute rampage at Sydney’s domestic airport thrust long-simmering biker violence into the public eye. Police launched a special unit to combat the growing turf war, saying the gangs had crossed a line by putting members of the public into the line of fire.

Sunday night’s incident began when a Hells Angels biker pulled into the driveway of an apartment complex in Sydney, police said. A gunman fired several times on the biker’s car.

The biker, who sustained several hits, was in stable condition at a heavily guarded hospital on Monday, police said.

In the airport brawl, 29-year-old Anthony Zervas was bludgeoned to death with metal poles during a fight that erupted between Hells Angels and members of the rival Comanchero gang when they got off a flight from Melbourne.

Five men connected to the Comancheros have been charged. None of them has been charged directly with the killing.

Over the weekend, the New South Wales government began considering legislation that would allow Supreme Court judges to jail biker gang members caught associating with one another if a gang is outlawed.

State Premeir Nathan Rees said the laws put bikers on notice “that your days are up. It’s finished.”

Biker gangs have existed in Australia since the late 1960s, and turf battles have ebbed and flowed. Gang members are often accused of being involved in drugs, though gang leaders deny involvement in organized crime.

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