Biker Gangs in Germany Hells Angels and Bandidos Agree to a Truce

Worried about a nationwide ban, the Hells Angels and Bandidos are arranging a truce in Germany. For over a year the two biker gangs have been involved in violent conflict. But on Wednesday a ceasefire will be sealed with a handshake in Hanover.

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At the end of April, the biker gangs Hells Angels and Bandidos were banned in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein -- a result of a rash of violent incidents between the two groups in the recent past. This month, other German states were considering following suit.

Now, though, that may no longer be necessary. The two gangs, sworn enemies who have been involved in an escalating conflict over control of various criminal activities and terrain since early 2009, said on Monday that they want to make peace.

The truce -- agreed to by the vice president of the Bandidos in Europe, Peter M. and Frank H., the president of the Hells Angels Charters in Hanover -- will be sealed "by a handshake" on Wednesday in a lawyer's office in Hanover.

The announcement comes just in time for the biker gangs. On Thursday and Friday, interior ministers from Germany's 16 states are to meet in Hamburg, and biker-gang violence is high on the agenda. Many anticipate that the ministers will recommend pursuing a nationwide ban.

'Won't Soften Our Stance'

Both gangs, "violate the law and infringe on the constitutional order," Klaus Schlie, interior minister of Schleswig-Holstein, said at the end of April in justifying his state's ban. "We won't soften our stance one little bit."

The biker gangs said that a tentative truce had been in effect for the past eight weeks. No serious incidents have been recorded during that time. In announcements posted on their websites, the gangs wrote that, after two months' of preparation, "a path toward co-existence in the future had been found and that the conflict between the two clubs was at an official end, effective immediately." Any infringements by gang members against the truce will be punished within the gangs themselves, the announcement said.

Biker gangs have found their way into German headlines often in recent weeks for brutal attacks on each other -- often involving knives, machetes, guns and even hand grenades. "We no longer want to be constantly portrayed as criminals," Bandidos member Micha told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "It has to stop."

'Doesn't Matter'

The peace process seems a clear effort to improve that image. "The bikers seem to have recognized that they are in danger of tearing themselves apart with this continuous fighting and that they have fewer opportunities to earn money," a criminologist who has been investigating the biker scene for years told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

Police reaction to the announcement was restrained. "It does not matter to us at all, who is making peace with whom," Uwe Keller, a spokesperson from Schleswig- Holstein's State Office for Criminal Investigation, told the news agency AFP.

Police accuse the biker gangs of being involved in a wide variety of criminal activities, including organized crime in red light districts, robbery, blackmail, drug dealing, receiving stolen property and possessing unlicensed firearms.

cis -- with wire reports

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