Armed police swoop on Australia biker gangs

Hundreds of heavily armed Australian police swooped Tuesday on motorcycle gangs in Sydney and surrounding areas, arresting high-ranking members and seizing explosives, guns, drugs and cash.

Some 350 police took part in dawn raids at 30 properties across Sydney and elsewhere in New South Wales state targeting the Hells Angels, Rebels and Comancheros, as well as Asian and Balkan crime organisations, police said.

They confirmed "a senior member of the Hells Angels" was among 19 people arrested during the raids which also recovered ammunition, a stun gun and a bullet-proof vest.

"A total of 19 people have been arrested during today's operation, the result of ongoing investigations," New South Wales police said, adding that four people had so far been charged.

"Search warrants are ongoing and further charges are anticipated."

Police said the raids were part of a two-year investigation into the supply of firearms, explosives and drugs to organised crime groups after intercepting more than 500,000 telephone calls.

Detective Chief Superintendent Mick Plotecki, commander of the organised crime squad, said a number of international links were identified.

"There are senior members from the Rebels, Comancheros, Hells Angels; we also have Balkan organised crime and Asian organised crime involved in this inquiry," he told reporters.

The Asian and Balkan groups were allegedly involved in supplying drugs and guns to rival biker gangs, he said.

Police said the arrests would have a significant impact.

"A number of significant illegal supply chains have now been severed, which will reduce the availability of guns and drugs to those organised criminal groups," Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard this month said the government will set up an anti-gang taskforce to combat "the gangs and guns on our streets", noting an increase in shootings in public places in New South Wales in recent years.

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