Rebel radicals: Police warn Islamic extremists are joining bikie gangs to fund possible terror plots and 'get back at Australia'
- Police say Islamic extremists are teaming up with outlaw bikie gangs
- Clive Small said they are joining the gangs to 'sell drugs and take over'
- Many are using radical Islam as a justification to join the groups
- Counter-terrorism efforts have left Muslim Australians feeling disillusioned
- The gangs have been transformed by an influx Middle Eastern members
- Alliances were formed between Lebanese migrants and bikies in the 90s
- Bikies have cultural ties to the communities harboring potential radicals
Amid heightened fears about home-grown jihadists joining the conflict in Iraq and Syria, a new threat could be set to rock the nation.
Police say Islamic extremists are teaming up with outlaw motorcycle gangs, using radical Islam as a justification to join the groups.
The link is a consequence of Australia's changing demographics, as well the shifting cultural landscape in the wake of the Government's severe counter-terrorism measures.
Members of the Mongols Motorcycle Club prepare to ride away from their clubhouse in western Sydney
New South Wales Assistant Police Commissioner Clive Small said there is a growing threat from homegrown Islamist radicals
Police raid and subsequent terror laws, which gave rise to a spate of hate crimes against Muslim Australians, have left many young men in these communities feeling disillusioned.
New South Wales Assistant Police Commissioner Clive Small said the clubs give them an avenue to revolt against Australian authorities.
'You can have a person who says I'm in it (a gang), I'm selling drugs, because Australia's a bad place and we need to raise money to take over,' Mr Small said.
In September, 800 police were involved in the largest counter-terrorism raids in Australian history, which authorities said thwarted a plot by militants linked to the Islamic State to behead a random member of the public.
Severe counter terror-laws were brought in last month in a bid to foil youngsters going to fight in Iraq and Syria, where scores of Australians have joined militant groups such as the Islamic State.
Police arrests a suspect in the nation's largest counter-terrorism operation in September , which saw hundreds of police raid homes in Sydney and Brisbane
(L) Another suspect arrested in the raids, and (R) a large curved sword inscribed with black foreign lettering was seized as part of the evidence found at a home in the suburb of Marsfield
But the link between Muslim Australians and bikie clubs goes back further than this.
More than 25 years ago, Mark 'Ferret' Moroney joined the Finks Outlaw Motorcycle Club, members were like him: tough, covered in tattoos and, like much of Australia at the time, white.
The gangs have since been transformed by an influx of members of Middle Eastern origin, some of whom do not even ride motorcycles.
'It changed the clubs' style a little bit. In the Mongol Nation you must have a motorcycle to be a member or to hang around,' Moroney, who defected from the Finks in 2013 to become national president of the rival, all-white Mongol Nation, said.
'Some other clubs are a bit lax with that rule,' the soft-spoken Moroney, with a shaved head, bulging forearms covered in tattoos and the word 'Mongols' inked across his neck, said in a rare interview at the club compound.
Convicted murderer and Brothers 4 Life gang boss Bassam Hamzy adopted the mantle of radical Islam behind bars while ordering his gang to join forces with the Bandidos Motorcycle Club in a bloody drug war.
Police say the gangs have since transformed by an influx of members of Middle Eastern members
The gangs now have strong family and cultural ties to the very communities police worry are harbouring potential radicals
The gangs now have strong family and cultural ties to the very communities police worry are harboring potential radicals.
'Those who are involved in criminal activity, what I'm worried about is they bring with them skill sets, contacts, ability to source materiel that may not be readily available in religiously extremist groups,' New South Wales Deputy Police Commissioner Nick Kaldas said.
'There is a wall, to some extent, between profit-driven criminality and extremism and I guess our concern is 'what happens if that wall fades or dissipates.''
In the 1990s, crime groups run by the children of Lebanese immigrants took control of Sydney's notorious Kings Cross neighborhood and alliances were forged with bikies, who police say are heavily involved in narcotics and extortion.
As the syndicates expanded into Sydney's majority Muslim western suburbs, young men were needed to bolster the ranks, said Detective Superintendent Deborah Wallace. Bikie gangs had no choice but to open to non-whites.
Nike Bikies' - so called for eschewing leathers and Harley Davidsons for designer jeans and Mercedes sedans-are a new type of motorcycle club member who does not ride a bike
Traditionally, these recruits went through a long probation before becoming a full member but the 'Nike Bikies' - so called for eschewing leathers and Harley Davidsons for designer jeans and Mercedes sedans - were in high demand.
Pumped up on steroids and flush with cash and guns, they would often defect from one bikie club to a rival, unheard of in earlier days, sparking conflict.
'They were their muscle. And what's happened since is that lack of loyalty is causing a whole lot of problems,' Wallace said.
Those problems included drive-by shootings, fire bombings and a 2011 brawl at Sydney airport that left one bikie dead.
Outside the Mongols' clubhouse in a Sydney industrial park around a dozen motorcycles gleam in the sun. Inside, behind a thick steel door watched over by security cameras, dozens of burly members drink beer and eat chicken smothered in gravy from grease soaked white boxes.
Pumped up on steroids and flush with cash and guns, the new breed of bikies often defect from one biker club to a rival, which is previously unheard of
Mark Moroney (C), National President of the Mongols Motorcycle Club, says Middle Easterners have larger families than white Australians, he said, and they bring relatives with them into the clubs
To Moroney, who denies involvement in criminal activity, the shift in bikie culture reflects changes in society. Middle Easterners have larger families than white Australians, he said, and they bring relatives with them into the clubs.
'If you've got 40 relatives compared to an Australian, who's got five, more people are going to come,' he said.
In 2005, police thwarted a plot involving Australia's most wanted terrorist Khaled Sharrouf to blow up a nuclear power plant in New South Wales with rockets allegedly stolen by an army major, who sold them to a biker gang, which sold them to a Lebanese organized crime group, which sold them to radical Islamists.
Kaldas, an immigrant from Egypt, sees a worrying pattern.
'For me, that was a classic example of the profit driven criminality and the religiously or jihadi motivated sort of violence working together,' Kaldas said.