Police arresting a man during a raid in Sydney
A shooting death described as a gang feud mixup has led to four people facing murder charges. Image by HANDOUT/NSW POLICE
  • crime, law and justice

Innocent trio shot in bungled hit before gang crackdown

December 20, 2023

Three alleged members of a major crime gang are among four people charged with murder after a triple shooting police described as a heinous case of mistaken identity.

Police on Wednesday swooped on eight people they accused of being part of the Haouchar criminal syndicate after a five-month investigation triggered by a bungled gangland hit in southwest Sydney.

Ahmed Al Azzam, 25, was found seriously injured in his parked car after an early morning public shooting at Greenacre on July 23.

He died in hospital four days later.

Police raid in Sydney
 NSW Police made a number of arrests during raids in Sydney. Image by HANDOUT/NSW POLICE 

Two other people, a 22-year-old man and a 19-year-old woman, were wounded in a separate car parked about 50m away.

The man was left with life-changing spinal injuries after the two cars were peppered with bullets.

Detectives quickly determined the killing was tied to the Haouchar gang, which they say carried out the attack in a belief a rival gang, the Comanchero bikies, was planning an ambush.

But all three victims were wrongly targeted and had no links to the simmering feud.

NSW State Crime Command director Jason Weinstein said police were extremely motivated to track down those responsible for the shooting because of its callous nature.

“Its a heinous crime on innocent individuals … who were parked in a street in a suburb of Sydney minding their own business when they came under fire by individuals attached to an organised crime network,” he said.

Police say the shooters made no effort to determine if Mr Al Azzam or the other victims were linked to the rival gang.

“It could have been any one of us in this room; any one of us in this state that was sitting there minding her own business,” Detective Chief Superintendent Weinstein said.

The Haouchar gang had since been largely dismantled, but the person who pulled the trigger during the shooting fled overseas and has remained on the run in an unknown country, police said.

NSW State Crime Command director Jason Weinstein
 NSW State Crime Command director Jason Weinstein said investigators were “extremely motivated”. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS 

Eight people were arrested in simultaneous dawn raids across Sydney and the Central Coast on Wednesday, with four charged over Mr Al Azzam’s murder and the others facing various organised crime-related offences.

Among those arrested were two men, aged 24 and 40, who were taken into custody at Drummoyne, in Sydney’s inner west.

The younger man was charged with murder and other offences and the older faces a number of counts. 

Both were refused bail and appeared at Burwood Local Court on Wednesday.

Two men, aged 25 and 39, were in custody for other matters and were taken from Parklea Correctional Centre to a local police station and charged with offences including murder.

They were remanded in custody to appear at Blacktown Local Court on Thursday.

A 21-year-old woman was arrested in Moore Park and charged with 13 criminal-group related offences including two counts of possessing an unregistered firearm-pistol and commercial quality drug supply.

She was refused bail and appeared before Liverpool Local Court on Wednesday.

Police arrested a 25-year-old man in Wattle Grove who was charged with a number of offences, refused bail and also faced Liverpool Local Court.

A 27-year-old taken from a Wellington prison was charged with being an accessory before the fact of murder and remanded in custody to appear before Burwood Local Court on Thursday.

While police believe the arrests and earlier raids have taken out many high-ranking members of the gang, alleged kingpin Bilal Haouchar remains overseas.

A NSW warrant has been out for his arrest since he left the country in 2018 and he was arrested in November in Beirut.

Australia does not have an extradition treaty with Lebanon, complicating any efforts to bring him before local courts.