Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/04/05/mad_max_rocket_launcher_madness/

Aussie bike bandits may be packing rocket launchers

Army officer busted for flogging weapons on black market

By Lewis Page

Posted in Security, 5th April 2007 14:37 GMT

An Australian army captain sold military rocket launchers to underworld arms dealers, according to police in New South Wales, Australia.

The Herald Sun reports that Australian feds and state cops swooped in a series of dawn raids yesterday, nabbing the officer and a former colleague. A 63-year-old woman was also arrested.

According to deputy police commissioner Terry Collins, the seized captain was the "mastermind and a key player in regard to the theft and distribution of these (rocket launchers) to criminal elements".

The apparent existence of a Down Under black market for rocket launchers has been getting sustained media interest in Australia for a while. Alleged backstreet arms dealer Taha Abdul Rahman was arrested in January and charged with a variety of offences relating to seven stolen launchers, after apparently selling one of them to a police nark last year. Australian plods, feds, and spooks are still engaged in an intensive hunt for six weapons which remain unaccounted for.

Rahman was said to have supplied five launchers to convicted murderer Adnan Darwiche, who then sold them on to suspected jihadi terrorist Mohammed Ali Elomar. Reports have been circulating in the Australian media for some time that the remaining un-recovered weapons may have wound up in the hands of outlaw motorbike gangs. Thus far the police have offered no official comment.

The weapons in question are M72 Light Anti-tank Weapons (LAWs), familiar to fans of the Dirty Harry movie The Enforcer. Older UK servicemen may also recall them under their British name, 66mm anti-tank. The M72 is an obsolesent one-shot unguided rocket of Vietnam-era vintage, supplied in a disposable launch tube. It might have been able to do some harm to older 20th century tanks, but would have little chance of success against modern armour. Even back when it was commonly carried, soldiers wound up using it more against buildings, snipers, bunkers, and so on.

Though scarcely cutting-edge, the M72 is certainly a step up from pistols and sawn-off shotguns, or it would be for most criminals. Outlaw bikers, though, are a bit of a special case, frequently tooling up with military-grade firepower. Partying Hell's Angels were reportedly collared in possession of an anti-tank cannon by Swedish cops last month, for instance, and other European bike chapters have occasionally used heavy ordnance to settle differences.

It could be that The Enforcer won't be the only movie reference this story draws. Mad Max allusions may also be on the cards if speculation is correct and Antipodean bike barbarians now outgun ordinary policemen. ®