Sydney rocked by drive-by shootings

An escalating gun war in Sydney saw five overnight drive-by shooting attacks, Australian police said Tuesday, as they struggled to bring the gangland violence under control.

There have been eight shootings across the city in four days and 19 so far this month, mostly in Sydney's west and southwest.

Three homes and two tattoo parlours were sprayed with bullets in the latest attacks. No one was hurt but five young children were lucky to escape injury in one of the houses.

Police believe a dispute between two biker gangs -- the Nomads and Hells Angels -- was behind four of the five attacks.

Assistant Police Commissioner Frank Mennilli said the police were working on stamping out the violence.

"This is where we have just individuals who've got a total disregard for the law of this state and its community," he told ABC radio.

"I can assure you and I can assure the community these people just better be ready, because we'll be knocking on their door very shortly."

However, few arrests have been made in the rising wave of gun crime with detectives frustrated by the reluctance of many victims to cooperate.

New South Wales state opposition leader John Robertson urged the government to authorise police rewards of up to Aus$50,000 (US$51,700) to any person who provides information that leads to an arrest and conviction.

"This gangland war is going to continue and people in Sydney are going to continue to live in fear," he told reporters.

New South Wales state Premier Barry O'Farrell defended the police response.

"I share the public's concern that even though these are clearly targeted shootings, only one stray bullet is needed to seriously injure or kill someone who is innocent," he said.

"But what we need to do is also support and recognise the progress that police have made.

"Since the start of this year, 74 arrests state-wide in relation to firearm offences, 147 weapons seized and 21,500 rounds of ammunition. I have great confidence in the New South Wales police."

Federal Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said more needed to be done to halt the illegal trade in firearms with more than 10,000 handguns on the streets of Australia.

He suggested a firearms unit be established to collate intelligence gathered by customs and federal and state police on the illegal gun trade.

"We already have that with drugs, and it works very well," he said.

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