Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pakistani and Moroccan criminals in Norway

Nina Berglund:

A new crackdown on Norway's criminal gangs got off to a dramatic start over the weekend, when police stormed a house north of Oslo and freed three badly abused hostages. The hostages, drug dealers themselves, were being held by Oslo gang leaders who were demanding millions in small notes for their return.

The brutality of the scene that met police on Saturday shocked even the most experienced among them: Three men bound and gagged and severely beaten in the cellar of a house at Ullensaker, while nine persons including several children were upstairs. By some reports, the men had been held and abused for as long as a week.

The nine adults in the house, which is owned by a veteran of the Young Guns gang, and their hostage victims were in police custody Monday, after the abused hostages were treated at local hospitals. The captors are charged with kidnapping and assault. Their victims are charged with a series of narcotics offenses.

Four of the nine who were in the house, two women and two teenagers, were later released while the others faced a custody hearing.

The hostage drama is believed linked to a battle between Norwegian-Pakistani gangs and a powerful Moroccan hashish league based in the Netherlands. Dutch police had tipped their Norwegian counterparts to what was happening in Ullensaker, northeast of Oslo.

Among the nine hostage-takers arrested is Arshad Mahmood, age 37, who has a long string of convictions for offenses including assault, dealing in stolen property and kidnapping. In 2003 he was shot outside the main terminal at Oslo's airport at Gardermoen, by the son of another man Mahmood had beaten badly three years earlier.

Mahmood is a verteran of the Young Guns gang, which together with the so-called "A" gang has been in conflict with the Netherlands-based, Moroccan narcotics league that allegedly controls much of the market for hashish in Norway.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported that the Oslo gang members thought they could make a quick profit by robbing drugs stored in the Dutch group's Oslo depot, and then more profits by seizing the Dutch group's couriers and demanding ransom, reportedly as much as NOK 8 million in cash, in small denominations.

Immigrant crime can lead to 'mafias'

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