Murders rising in `Yardie' drug war

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A FEUD between rival drug gangs in London is believed to have claimed two more victims in the past week, bringing the number of murders to 13 since the start of the year.

Scotland Yard detectives believe the extraordinary number of shootings is evidence of a battle for supremacy between Yardie-style Jamaican gangsters based in the capital.

In the latest incident, on Monday night, a 20-year-old man was shot dead in the street in Harlesden, north-west London, by two men.

On Sunday night, a gun battle outside a pub in Hoxton, north-east London, injured two people. Both were taken to hospital and they are now being treated under armed guard. Police called to investigate the shooting found nine cars with bullet holes in them. An abandoned Mazda was riddled with bullets and splashed with blood.

Later on Sunday night, a 21-year-old man was shot in the back and killed at a night- club in Windsor, Berkshire.

Two days earlier, a 23-year-old man was shot several times as he sat in his car in Brixton, south London, following the funeral of a prominent gangster.

In all four cases, members of a specialist police team, known as Operation Trident, have been called in.

Since January, there have been 13 gun murders in and around London which are believed to have Yardie-style links. Most of the attacks have taken place in Harlesden, Brixton, Tottenham and Lambeth areas of the capital. A major police operation that includes the deployment of 24-hour armed response vehicles in potential troublespots has been set up to try and prevent further killings.

The killings are believed to be the result of feuds over drugs - mostly crack cocaine - and territorial control.

For more than a year, a team of detectives based in Lambeth, south London, has been compiling intelligence on Jamaican- born criminals. The Operation Trident squad includes several officers with Jamaican family backgrounds to help break into previously impenetrable criminal circles.

Detectives have drawn up a database of 200 Jamaican-born criminals linked to gun crime in Britain. But British-born criminals who have mimicked the violent, gun-toting lifestyle of the Yardies, rather than genuine Jamaican gangsters, are believed to be responsible for many of the street battles.

A protest march was recently held in north London involving the black community - many of whom are becoming increasingly fearful of the street shootings and violence.

The shooting of Dean Roberts in Harlesden on Monday is believed to be the latest example of the continuing feud. Two men were seen driving away in a red car. Mr Roberts died several hours later in hospital.

Detectives are also investigating links with the shooting on Sunday night at the Mirage nightclub in Windsor in which Nathan Cawley died. Three suspects were seen escaping through a fire exit immediately after the incident. More than 500 people were in the club when Mr Cawley was shot.

Detectives say that the rival factions are disorganised, and what links them is the trade in crack cocaine and a willingness to use extreme violence.

While the police have had some success with their investigations, and have charged several people with murder, the violence shows no sign of abating. Worryingly, the reverse appears to be case.