Hells Angels Vs. Bandidos: Bloody Battles on Nordic Streets
OSLO, Norway (AP) _ Outlaw bikers have launched a bloody battle in the Nordic countries, and police are doing everything in their power to restore the calm that people are accustomed to.
But the bearded, tattooed members of the feuding Hells Angels and Bandidos gangs say the violence will only get worst unless police ease up on the crackdown.
The two gangs already have killed six people in sneak attacks over turf, greed and what they call ``honor″ in Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark. Citizens are spooked by the threat to their usually safe and placid lives.
``Just a car slowing down has people racing out to get their children,″ said Hjarne Pedersen, who lives near the Hells Angels’ fortress-like compound in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Police in the four countries are fighting the gang violence with spies, harassment, raids, bugging, eviction threats, deportations, surveillance and even tax audits.
Danish Bandidos leader Jim Tinndahn said that unless the police ease up, things will only get worse.
``We will defy them,″ he told the Oslo newspaper Aftenposten. ``If the police continue this, we will see a lot of violence in the streets.″
Police say the feud began in February 1994 with the murder of a Hells Angels ally in Helsingborg, Sweden. It reached a spectacular climax in March, when Hells Angels opened fire on Bandidos at the international airports in Copenhagen and Oslo. One Bandido was killed.
In 32 other incidents, including attacks with bombs, hand grenades and armor-piercing rockets, about 20 people have been injured.
It is unclear what started the feud in the Nordic countries between the Corpus Christi, Texas-based Bandidos and the Oakland, Calif.-based Hells Angels. But police suspect a grab for drug and crime markets.
Since winning a 1980s feud with local bikers that left 13 people dead, the Hells Angels have claimed the Nordic countries as their own. The Bandidos moved into Denmark in 1993 and quickly expanded in the region.
Since August 1995, when the Bandidos reportedly moved their European headquarters to the Danish village of Stenloese, the conflict has steadily worsened.
Danish police, unable to get reliable information from the bikers, have resorted to wiretaps, electronic surveillance, searches, infiltration and tax audits. As of last week, Danish police alone this year confiscated 82 handguns, 40 rifles, four machine guns, three bombs and 25 hand grenades from bikers.
Norway, pushed by a public outcry, deported three Danish Hells Angels this week. Usually unarmed police now carry guns on round-the-clock patrols outside the bikers’ clubhouses.
Those watches may deter violence, but they aren’t very informative for police. Many of the clubhouses are surrounded by higher walls and more curls of barbed wire than Nordic prisons; some have video cameras and lookout points along their perimeters. Many are out in the countryside, surrounded by open fields, making police surveillance more difficult.
In Copenhagen, the Hells Angels have a compound of at least five buildings surrounded by a 10-foot wooden fence emblazoned with the gang’s logo. A statue of a Viking ready to throw a long spear stands atop one of the buildings.
Neighbors already unsettled by the compound became even more fearful when an unexploded bomb was found outside in July. Now, few will discuss the bikers.
``If I didn’t have a child, maybe I would tell you,″ a woman said when asked what it was like living in the gang’s shadow. She wouldn’t give her name; others wouldn’t even talk.
Despite close cooperation between Nordic police forces _ and advice from the FBI _ the gangs remain largely a mystery to police.
``It is incredibly difficult to investigate such cases. The bikers want to settle up by themselves, and won’t say anything to the police. These are very organized criminals,″ said Knut R. Mikkelsen of the Oslo police.
Police estimate that each chapter _ some countries have several _ has 10-30 members, plus dozens of hopefuls, sympathizers, and members of allied gangs.
Experts say there’s probably no end in sight unless the gangs stop fighting. That may be far off _ a patch favored by Bandidos on their leather jackets sums up the code: ``Expect no mercy.″
``These clubs function outside normal, moral society and work on the principle of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,″ said Jaakko Sonck of Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation.
Despite the fears, some Scandinavians betray a fascination with the unkempt, surly bikers who are so at odds with the region’s usual neatness and politeness.
In May, a curious Oslo woman drove slowly past the clubhouse of MC Norway, a Hells Angels affiliate. She was rewarded for her interest with a bullet that grazed her head, making her the first and only ``civilian″ injured in the feud.