An Auckland barber shop and tattoo parlour has been firebombed and shot up overnight amid growing gang tensions in the region.
There are fears the incident, in Māngere, could be the first major shot in a war for control of the south Auckland suburb, Stuff understands.
Police are yet to make an arrest following the attack on the business in Kirkbride Rd early on Thursday, but have confirmed they do not believe it was a random attack and say it could be linked to organised crime groups.
The business, which Stuff has chosen not to identify, was totally gutted by the blaze.
“I have no idea who’s done this,” she said.
“This is a totally legit business.”
On Thursday morning, significant numbers of patched King Cobras were seen outside the premises.
Stuff understands territorial claims by the King Cobras to the area have been increasingly challenged in the past year by local members of the Rebels Motorcycle Club.
The Rebels in Auckland have been reinvigorated after the return to the area of a prominent leader, deported from Australia on character grounds as a “501”.
The firebombing would represent the highest profile incident yet in the simmering conflict between the Rebels and King Cobras.
Stuff understands there are fears the tensions could explode into a full scale gang war.
Detective Inspector Chris Barry, of Counties Manukau police, said officers received several calls shortly after 2am Thursday from people near the barber’s shop who saw the fire and heard gun shots.
Officers and firefighters arrived at the scene to find the business ablaze, he said.
“Police have set up a scene examination and we can confirm that a small number of spent rounds were located.
“Nobody was injured but police did evacuate three people who were in the upstairs unit.
“While the investigation is in its early stages, police do not believe this was a random incident and we are looking at the possibility that this incident is linked to organised crime groups.
“Police are increasing our presence in the area and we want to assure our community that we are treating this matter seriously and with urgency.”
He asked anyone in the area who saw any suspicious activity to contact police on 105 quoting file number 210701/4509, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Large numbers of patched Rebels and King Cobras recently appeared together at the funeral of Head Hunter Taranaki “Ardie” Fuimaono in central Auckland, who died in police custody.
Ardie was formerly a King Cobra before becoming a patched Head Hunter.
There was no sign of any conflict between the two gangs at the funeral or the burial, understood to be due to an unwritten rule forbidding any trouble at funerals.
The Rebels are headquartered in Australia and are the largest outlaw motorcycle gang in that country, with more than 2000 members.
The King Cobras are a prominent old-school patched gang, founded in Ponsonby, central Auckland, more than 60 years ago.
MORE GANG CONFLICT IN AUCKLAND
The arson follows a series of violent, high-profile incidents linked to a separate conflict centred on the North Shore between the Head Hunters and Mongols.
That feud, which arose over the name of a Mongol-linked business in south Auckland, also erupted with the firebombing of a business.
The alleged attempted arson of Northside Powersports, in Forge Rd, linked to a senior member of the Mongols on the North Shore, is believed to have been retribution from the local Head Hunters, who were unhappy with the use of the name “Northside”.
A car was torched, but the garage and office escaped destruction.
Just over a week later the dispute reached central Auckland, with a dramatic daytime shooting in the lobby of the five-star Sofitel Viaduct Harbour.
Several shots were fired but no-one was injured. The alleged culprit spent weeks on the run.
Auckland detectives launched a large-scale investigation involving lengthy manhunts and officers from across Tamaki Makaurau, Northland and the National Organised Crime Group.
Police announced the end of their months-long investigation into the gang war on June 29. Nineteen people face a raft of drugs and firearms charges.