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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Biker Gangs Battle Over Scandinavian Turf

HASSLARP, Sweden -- Siv Persson passed through this tiny farm town with the wariness of a lost motorist in a tough city neighborhood.


"You'll understand if I don't stop or slow down,'' she said, hurriedly turning her two-door Ford past the old fish market. "It is not a good idea.''


Persson isn't just a passerby; she is the local representative to the Swedish legislature. The fish market no longer sells seafood; it serves up a saucy chapter of the Oakland, California-based Hells Angels.


And for months now, the lawmaker and the outlaw bikers -- enemies to the core -- have known no peace because of a bloody motorcycle war that is barreling across Scandinavia. The combat pits homegrown copycats of America's infamous biker gang against one of its chief rivals, the Houston-based Bandidos.


The problem is straightforward: The Angels and the newly arrived Bandidos have determined that the land of the midnight sun isn't big enough for both of them. And in just the past three months, police say, four gang members have died to prove it.


Facing death threats from unnamed bikers for her efforts against the gangs, Persson keeps in her pocketbook a cellular phone that can transmit an alarm to police in seconds. Her mail is screened for explosives. She can't even accept a bouquet of flowers without a security officer first picking through it.


This pastoral Scandinavian setting is indeed a peculiar battlefield, but it is not alone and it is not the first. The last motorcycle war in Scandinavia was fought only a decade ago in Denmark.


This time, there have been shootouts at the airports in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Oslo, Norway; missile raids on clubhouses in Sweden and in Denmark and a grenade attack at a Copenhagen prison.


Authorities estimate that there are 1,000 outlaw bikers in Scandinavia, but the Hells Angels and Bandidos chapters themselves are highly selective. In Denmark, where both clubs have the deepest roots, their combined membership is under 100, and the numbers are smaller in Sweden, Norway and Finland, police say.


Although they offer no direct evidence, authorities believe the war has a strong criminal element. With the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, Scandinavia has become the gateway to a thriving underworld in the former Soviet bloc, and police say the outlaw bikers want a piece of the action.


Residents in Hasslarp complain the police are doing too little to win back their town of 600 families about 300 miles southwest of Stockholm.


If it weren't for Persson, they would have virtually no voice, they say.