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Murder of Lebanese crime boss sparks fears of escalating gang war in Melbourne.

Summary: BEIRUT: Fears of a new gangland war were sparked in Melbourne by the killings of two men outside a bar, just six hours after Lebanese crime family patriarch Macchour Chaouk was gunned down at his home on Melbourne's west. In the second of two shootings, which are currently not thought to be related, the two men were killed by a gunman

BEIRUT: Fears of a new gangland war were sparked in Melbourne by the killings of two men outside a bar, just six hours after Lebanese crime family patriarch Macchour Chaouk was gunned down at his home on Melbourne's west.

In the second of two shootings, which are currently not thought to be related, the two men were killed by a gunman at about 4:45 pm (AEST) in a popular bar area in Carlton, a suburb of Melbourne.

The victims are thought to have been accused by their killer of trying to poison him, although police could not confirm a motive for the dispute. Witnesses described seeing the gunman, who was balding and dressed in black, chase another man before returning to Players to claim the second victim. A suspect, thought to be in his 50s was arrested at the bar and taken into custody by police.

A police detective said that the Carlton double murder did not appear to be connected to the Chaouk shooting in Melbourne's west, although concerns were raised that there was the potential for revenge attacks.

Meanwhile, a 57-year-old man was arrested and is helping the police in their investigation into the death of Lebanese crime family patriarch Macchour Chaouk, 65, in the back yard of his heavily secured home.

Chaouk was shot in the chest at about 11.00 am (AEST) by an unknown gunman and died shortly afterward.

Police said that they were currently investigating the involvement of the Haddara family, which has a history of tit-for-tat feuds with the Chaouks. Ongoing violence between the rival clans resulted in the formation of the Santiago Taskforce in 2008. A family spokesman said that Chaouk's death would be avenged, inciting furiously, "the weak, dirty dogs killed him on Ramadan."

Two of Chaouk's five sons, Ali and Matwali, are in custody on charges of assault and attempted murder and his 19-year-old son Omar is on bail following a raid on the house last month. In 2005, police shot dead another son, Mohamed, during a raid following a six-month investigation into alleged criminal activity by the family and their associates. In July the police raided another of Chaouk's homes seizing guns and ammunition after Sam Haddara, 18, was shot in the face in a drive-by shooting.

The feud between the families continued following the murder of Sam's cousin Mohamad Haddara in another drive-by shooting last year for which Chaouk's nephew was charged; police cite this as a point of revenge for the Haddara clan. Police investigations have found that the Chaouks have access to weapons and are strongly linked to Sydney's Lebanese crime gangs, sparking fears that bloodshed could spread interstate.

Chaouk himself has a string of convictions dating back to assault in 1975, six years after he arrived in Australia from Lebanon. He was convicted of heroin trafficking in 1983 and sentenced to five years in jail for the same offence in 2000.

Police remained on guard outside the Chaouk home overnight while force-response units and Santiago detectives scoured the area. -- Daily Star , with AFP

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Aug 14, 2010
Words:587
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