Elite task force formed to tackle Sydney underworld war

Maureen Dettre and Samantha Lock |

A man has been shot dead in Sydney’s southwest, hours after a criminal lawyer was targeted.
A man has been shot dead in Sydney’s southwest, hours after a criminal lawyer was targeted.

A spate of brazen Sydney shootings are linked to an increasingly deadly conflict over the city’s drug trade, police say.

A high-level investigative unit has been formed to curb the violence after a man was fatally gunned down at southwest suburban Canterbury on Thursday morning, the fifth such victim in as many days.

Police Commissioner Karen Webb said the specialist task force would treat shootings over the past month as linked “until proven otherwise”.

“We’ll be throwing 100 extra police officers at this,” she said. 

“We’re talking about 70 investigators dedicated to this task force and 30 additional proactive officers that will be patrolling the streets of southwest Sydney.”

Thursday’s attack appears to have been the breaking point for police, after the man in his 20s was shot dead on Broughton Street about 2am.

Police Minister Yasmin Catley said she was fed up with the violence.

“I’ve had a gutful,” she said. 

The unidentified man was found by officers with multiple gunshot wounds in an attack said to exhibit the hallmarks of an underworld hit. 

He was treated by paramedics but died at the scene.

Assistant Commissioner Dave Hudson said the string of tit-for-tat shootings was linked to organised crime networks feuding over Sydney’s lucrative illicit drug trade.

The conflict was playing out in the city’s southwest with many of the hits outsourced to lower-level criminal groups, he said.

“It’s escalated over the last several years,” Mr Hudson said.

“Sydney’s unfortunately one of the highest consumers of cocaine and methamphetamine in the world.”

The ongoing gang war involves a number of families and has claimed at least 11 lives over recent years, prior to flaring again.

Task force Magnus will examine connections between the shootings dating back to Alen Moradian’s murder in Bondi Junction in June.

Mr Hudson said the task force would engage with the “criminal environment” to establish leads.

“People know those people out there, someone knows the secret,” Ms Webb said. 

“They need to come forward … people know what is going on.”

She said the significant operational response was needed to protect the community. 

“Public-place shootings are reckless and criminals carrying out such attacks show a blatant disregard for not only their own safety but that of the community,” she said.

“Task force Magnus will provide investigating officers a full suite of capabilities and an arsenal of resources to not only find those responsible but end this brazen violence on our streets.”

Mr Hudson said some of the best minds in policing had been hand-picked to lead the unit.

The Canterbury execution unfolded after two men had a verbal altercation with the victim. Police later found what they believe to be two burnt-out getaway cars.

The previous morning, high-profile criminal lawyer Mahmoud Abbas was critically wounded outside his Greenacre home.

The 31-year-old underwent emergency surgery but died in hospital on Thursday.

He had represented several high-profile clients, including members of an alleged ISIS-inspired terror cell charged with plotting to destroy Sydney landmarks and controversial former Auburn deputy mayor Salim Mehajer.

On Sunday, three people were shot at Greenacre, leaving one 25-year-old man critically injured and a 22-year-old man and a 19-year-old woman injured.