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Melbourne's new gang war is as disorganised as it is deadly

FAMILY feuds, bikies, drugs, guns and money are at the heart of Melbourne's latest burst of gangland violence.

A Herald Sun investigation has found trigger-happy criminals are arming themselves with a gun for $3000.

That's the price of a 9mm semi-automatic on the weapons black market.

More than 30 people have been shot in recent years in a conflict that has been as disorganised as it is dangerous.

Outlaw motorcycle gangs are suspected of being the source of some of the guns that have found their way into the hands of combatants.

There is concern at the bikies' links to several families whose activities have come under the scrutiny of the Santiago taskforce.

The majority of the combatants in the conflict are

Many are well-known faces in the nightclubs of Chapel St and King St.

It is here that some deal methamphetamine or provide muscle for others doing the trafficking.

Security industry figures know to treat them with caution because of the risk they have been using their product and are carrying firearms.

Dozens of victims have survived shootings - mostly fired to the legs as warnings but, in some cases, simply the result of bad marksmanship.

One badly wounded victim is said to have told hospital staff he was injured by gravel thrown his way by a car performing a burn-out.

Others have been taken to industrial areas to be bashed for information or money.

After a gun battle in Coolaroo this year, three men were tortured over days in a factory.

Some in the northern suburbs have found their houses fire-bombed and others not even involved have been threatened with death after standing up to gang members.

The only shooting fatality publicly linked to the north suburban conflict was that of a man at Hadfield last month.

Several people who are believed to have been present were questioned on the night of his death, but no charges have been laid.

It is a code of silence that has frustrated investigators, with few willing to test what will happen if they do talk.

While much of the friction in the north is suspected to be caused by money and drugs, grudges and revenge are more likely to be at the heart of clashes in the west.

The deaths of two men from the opposing Chaouk and Haddara families have shifted the spotlight to the Altona North and Brooklyn areas.

This conflict has intensified since Mohammed Haddara was shot dead in a park at Altona North in June last year.

A car was soon after allegedly rammed into the fence of the Chaouks' property in Geelong Rd, Brooklyn.

Three months later, in one of the most alarming incidents yet, a machinegun was fired into a car parked outside a McDonald's restaurant on Millers Rd, Altona North.

Two months ago, the shooting of 18-year-old Sam Haddara in a car on Chambers Rd, Altona North, amplified police concerns.

The ambush was regarded as an intended hit and unlikely to be allowed to pass without retaliation.

The Haddaras are suspected of having forged links with the Kheirs, a family believed to be linked to violence in the northern suburbs.

There are suggestions the Haddaras have also aligned themselves with a bikie gang.

While this is unclear, there is no doubt the Hells Angels are in the Chaouk corner.

Connections between the outfit and the family were clear long before some Angels rode to the Preston Mosque to pay their respects at murdered Macchour Chaouk's funeral last month.

Some involved in the gangland war would be familiar to the Purana detectives who investigated Melbourne's previous underworld war.

Chris Orfanidis, who recently arrived badly wounded at Sunshine Hospital, was discharged by a magistrate over the murder of Mark Mallia.

Police investigating mostly non-fatal shootings, the Santiago taskforce, are making progress in getting some of those on charges to inform on their co-conspirators.

Investigators have built intelligence on how the networks formed, confiscated dozens of guns and are tracking how the money is made.

After a split between the Chaouks and the Haddaras, both families have splintered.

Sources say the Chaouks have links with the Elgammal family, which leases a carwash near the Chaouk family home.

The carwash, at the corner of Millers and Geelong roads, has been raided by police and is also at the centre of a legal battle with a Sydney-based couple trying to evict them.

The Haddara clan, led by Ahmed Haddara, who has been questioned over the murder of Macchour Chaouk, has been linked with the Kheir family.

Sources have told the Herald Sun that the escalation in shootings between the Chaouks and the Haddaras is based on mutual hatred.

There is no formal structure or chain of command in their activities, despite the families, until the death of Macchour Chaouk, having clear patriarchal figures. s

Confusingly, those linked with the families refer to each other as brothers and cousins.


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