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Guns for hire are flooding into Victoria as a bloody feud between bikie gangs threatens to erupt.
Senior police say that while the attempted murder of Bandidos' sergeant-at-arms Toby Mitchell on Friday had raised fears of a war with the Hells Angels, tensions had been simmering for weeks as violent gang members from Sydney flexed their muscles.
A police email circulated around the force states that the Bandido gang has now 'declared war' on the powerful Hells Angels. Photo: Peter Rae
As revealed by Fairfax Media on Tuesday, a Victoria Police email circulated in the force states the Bandidos gang has ''declared war'' on the powerful Hells Angels.
The email from force command has warned all police to exercise extreme caution when interacting with bikies because of the possibility they could be armed.
''This will get ugly,'' one senior investigator said.
Police have already tried to initiate peace talks with the two gangs.
Police have already tried to initiate peace talks with the two gangs but have so far been rebuffed.
There were more than 100 drive-by shootings in Sydney last year, not all linked to bikie gangs, and crime Assistant Commissioner Steve Fontana said there were fears similar violence would be seen in Victoria.
''That's probably part of the reason behind the escalation. Some of these gangs have been quite violent, some of those influences are creeping in down here,'' Mr Fontana said.
Detectives know the Hells Angels have been actively recruiting members of a Lebanese crime family, with one recently made a full member.
The family has strong links to Sydney and has access to illegal firearms.
Mitchell and other Bandidos were ambushed on Friday night when up to 30 shots were fired at them outside the affiliated Diablos gang's Melton clubhouse.
Some of those present suggested the attack had the hallmark of a Middle Eastern gang's drive-by shooting tactics and suspect the Hells Angels were involved.
It was the second attempt on Mitchell's life.
Mr Fontana said some of the gang members were of Middle Eastern descent.
The leaders of both gangs had been urged to stop the war, but would ''do what they want'', he said.
''The threat is real and the thing that concerns us is that it plays out in the public eye.''
Mr Fontana would not comment on the investigation of the Melton incident, or the earlier attempt on Mitchell's life in Brunswick.
He said that while there was a difference in size between the clubs, with the Hells Angels considerably larger, they were part of global networks and could call on vast resources at will.
Mr Fontana said country road police as well as interstate police forces, the Australian Federal Police, and Australian Crime Commission had been consulted to ensure tensions did not erupt in country Victoria, other states or overseas.
Deputy Commissioner Graham Ashton said police would be drawn from different taskforces to form Operation Resound, to tackle the escalating violence.
He said this was not an indication the Echo taskforce, formed in 2011 to counteract bikie gangs, had been under-resourced.