Slim Allagui, AFP, Oct. 28, 2008
M’BOSSARAN Ciss still feels knots in her stomach when she recalls the night a stray bullet zipped through a window during dinner at a friend’s apartment in Copenhagen.
“Two minutes earlier, I was standing at the window right in the path of the bullet and I could have died,” the Guinean dancer told AFP.
The bullet went through the living room window before lodging in the wall just above the door.
Denmark’s accustomed calm has been brutally shattered in recent weeks, as a violent turf war has escalated between Hell’s Angels bikers and youths of immigrant origin with a raft of shootings across the capital.
The bullet that interrupted Ciss’s dinner party on October 11 had been fired by a member of an immigrant gang who was being chased through the streets by three men in a car.
In the past two months alone, police say there have been 25 shootings in Copenhagen’s otherwise peaceful streets, leaving one person dead and six injured from both sides.
The long-simmering conflict between the two gangs exploded into full-blown war after a 19-year-old man of Turkish origin named Osam Nuri Dogan, who was armed and wearing a bullet-proof vest, was executed on the street on August 19.
His body was riddled with 25 bullets in front of a Copenhagen pizza parlour.
A member of Hell’s Angels suspected of the killing was arrested but was soon released for lack of evidence.
Since then, the violence and the often racially-loaded insults flung between the two camps have grown.
In an attempt to stem the clashes between Hell’s Angels, its offshoot AK81 and the gangs of mainly third-generation immigrants, police have launched a vast operation in Copenhagen and in the western town of Aarhus and central town of Odense, seizing “over 200 illegal fire arms”, according to the justice ministry.
Despite the massive police action, the violence has continued.
Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen recently called for sending even more police into the streets, insisting on the need to “immediately bring an end to this fighting”.
He cautioned that allowing the violence to continue could result in it spilling over into “societal clashes between Danes and immigrants in general”.
This is why “we are fighting both the motorcycle gangs and the criminal immigrants who are contributing to the lacking security in our cities”, Rasmussen said.
While all the political parties have expressed their concern over the mounting violence, the centre-left opposition insists the government bears part of the responsibility for the increase.
“The government has failed in its social efforts and in long-term integration efforts, which could have helped avoid having these youths join gangs,” Karen Haekkerup, a spokeswoman for the opposition Social Democrats, said.
Police acknowledge that they are losing the battle to halt the violence.
“It’s mission impossible. We hope that our efforts will at least help lessen the violence,” Munch said.