Suspected Vancouver gang leader arrested in crackdown

Tue Mar 3, 2009 4:58pm EST
 
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canadian police have arrested an apparent leader of one of the gangs waging an increasingly violent battle over Vancouver's drug trade, officials said on Tuesday.

Police also promised more arrests to stem a recent rash of shootings linked to organized crime that prompted federal officials to dub the Vancouver area as Canada's "gang capital" as it was preparing to host the 2010 Olympics.

Barzan Tilli-Choli, accused by police of being a leader of the U.N. Gang, has been charged with attempted murder last month of a member of a rival gang in a shooting incident that left one person wounded.

The U.N. Gang founded in the late 1990s is said to have taken on that name to reflect the multicultural nature of its membership.

Police hailed the arrest as a high-profile success in a crackdown that began last year as violence increased between gangs fighting over territory in the lucrative trade of "BC Bud" marijuana and imported cocaine.

There have been at least 19 gang-related shootings in the Vancouver area since mid January, but police said the crackdown has helped them prevent as many as 20 other planned shootings or kidnappings.

"The level of violence of these people is astonishing," said Vancouver Police Inspector Mike Porteous.

A police official said the recent spike in violence has resulted from mid-level drug gangs trying to expand their distribution territories.

(Reporting by Allan Dowd; Editing by Frank McGurty)