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Deadly Australia airport brawl prompts crackdown

AUSTRALIAN authorities promised a crackdown on gang violence today after a man was beaten to death in front of passengers at the country's biggest airport during a melee between rival motorcycle gangs.

Four men were charged with affray after the brawl yesterday. Terrified travellers said a man was bludgeoned to death by up to 15 men wielding metal bollards used to separate passengers in the Sydney airport flight check-in area.

Most of the men then fled in taxis.

"I'm sickened at the violence that occurred. I want to make sure that the police force has everything they need to fight this sort of violent crime," New South Wales state Premier Nathan Rees told state radio after the brawl.

Police and media reports said the brawl appeared to be between the Hell's Angels and the Comancheros, fighting for control of the illegal drugs trade.

While members of the public criticised security and police at the airport for being slow to react, four men were later arrested. They were to appear in Sydney's Central Local Court later on Monday, a police statement said.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty said security measures at the airport were acceptable.

Rees said his state would look at a ban on motorcycle gangs, modelled on laws in South Australia, where bike gangs have been blamed for murder, drug trafficking, prostitution and weapons smuggling.

A 2006 Australian Crime Commission report found there were 35 outlaw motorcycle gangs in Australia, with 3,500 members.

Police have blamed club defections for escalating violence including drive-by shootings at Sydney nightclubs, the firebombing of one gang's clubhouse, and shots fired into the tattoo shop of the Nomads national president.

In South Australia, police have been empowered to dismantle gang headquarters and force members to account for any unexplained wealth or income.


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