17 charged in footballer’s ‘gang-war’ slaying

373961.jpgCharges were filed against 17 men on Wednesday in relation to the July 2010 killing of young Assyriska FF footballer Eddie Moussa and his brother in Södertälje in eastern Sweden, in what prosecutors believe was a settling of scores between rival gangs.

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In addition to murder charges related to the killing of Moussa and his brother, the indictment also included charges for an additional murder, extortion, and kidnapping.

Among the key figures is a 31-year-old from the so-called Nätverket (‘The network’) gang who is believed to have instigated the murder of the leader of the rival X-team criminal gang in December of 2009 at the gambling club Oasen in Södertälje.

The slaying was the catalyst for a several years of bloody conflict between the gangs which police inspector Thomas Nordström characterized as a battle for control of the criminal market.

“It is about taking control over the narcotics trade, aggravated extortion and other criminal sources of income,” Nordström told news agency TT.

In the spring of 2010 a car was fired upon in Södertälje, and the 31-year-old is believed to have been the target.

According to police, the Nätverket gang took exacted revenge by having the two Moussa brothers gunned down by assailants wielding automatic weapons at the Oasen gambling club later that year.

Aside from prosecuting the 31-year-old for the murders of the two brothers, seven other people have been charged for their involvement in the killings.

The two people who fired the guns at the brothers are named in the indictment as “unknown perpetrators”.

The 17 suspects are spread out at six of Sweden’s jails between Gothenburg in the south and Österåker north of Stockholm. The trial is set to start in a week in at the Stockholm District Court.

Two of the members of the X-team gang who were involved in the drive-by shooting believed to have targeted the 31-year-old have previously been sentenced to several years in prison for attempted murder.

Prosecutor Björn Frithiof explained that it took him a long time to get witnesses and the plaintiff to talk.

“It has been especially characteristic of this case. In the beginning they said nothing, even though we heard they knew. For example, several witnesses saw the murders. But as the investigation has grown they have chosen to talk anyway,” Frithiof told TT.

Aside from witnesses and the plaintiff, the indictment is based on several types of surveillance during an extended period of time, where police have mapped out the connections between people and where they have been located.

The series of incidents is the result of a gang conflict between the Nätverket and the X-team gangs in Södertälje.

“But there are also elements of inter personal conflicts and conflicts over money,” Frithiof said.

The 26-year-old Moussa and his 40-year-old brother Yaacoub were shot dead in Café Oasen, a known gambling club in Södertälje’s Ronna shopping precinct on July 1st, 2010.

According to witnesses, three men came into the premises shortly after 2am in the morning and began firing automatic weapons, killing the two brothers and injuring a third victim.

At the time, police suspected the killings may have been targeted and orchestrated by elements of the criminal underworld.

Eddie Moussa was a promising young football star of Lebanese-Assyrian extraction who held both Swedish and Dominican passports. He debuted for Assyriska FF, a Södertälje-based club which played one season in Sweden’s Allsvenskan top-flight after winning promotion in 2004.

The club, which was founded only in 1974, has a large following in Södertälje and is considered by many to be a substitute national team for the Assyrian people.