An "internal cleansing" of the world's second most powerful biker gang was likely behind a mass murder in Canada over the weekend that claimed the lives of eight men, police said on Monday as they announced arrests in the gruesome case.
All eight victims, whose bodies were found in three abandoned cars and a tow-truck in a farmer's field in southern Ontario province, were members or associates of the Bandidos motorcycle club from the Toronto area, police said.
All eight died of gunshot wounds. At least one of the victims was found stuffed into the trunk of one of the vehicles.
"This is an isolated incident with ties to the Bandidos," Ross Bingley, director of Ontario's police criminal investigation division, told reporters.
"There's nothing to indicate that there's anything outside the Bandidos, that this is simply an internal cleansing," police inspector Don Bell said.
However, Bingley noted: "This investigation is far from over."
Earlier, the Globe and Mail newspaper in Toronto, citing confidential police sources, said the slayings were tied to an old rivalry between the biker gang and the infamous Hells Angels fighting for control of the illegal drug trade.
Police dismissed the story, saying no other biker gangs were being investigated for the murders at this time, and the Hells Angels denied responsibility on their Web site.
A farmer in Shedden, 200km southwest of Toronto and near Lake Erie on the US border, called police on Saturday morning after discovering the macabre scene in a wood.
Late on Sunday, police raided a home near the crime scene belonging to another Bandidos gang member, who had himself survived an assassination attempt in 1999, and arrested homeowner Wayne Kellestine, three other men and a woman.
The five suspects were arrested and charged with eight counts of first-degree murder, which suggests some planning or forcible confinement was part of the crime, police said.
The five remain in custody and were due to appear in court later on Monday.
Kellestine had once tried to establish a Bandidos chapter in the rural area halfway between Toronto and Detroit in the US, according to media reports.
During the 1990s, some 160 people died in a decade-long turf war in neighboring Quebec province between the Hells Angels and the Rock Machine, which had allied itself briefly with the Bandidos for control of the local drug trade and prostitution business.
The Hells Angels won, according to observers, while the Bandidos were forced to retreat to Toronto, the home of their only Canadian clubhouse.
Meanwhile, public outrage over innocent casualties of the feud, including a reporter, two prison guards and an 11-year-old boy hit by shrapnel from a car bomb, led to tougher anti-gang laws in Canada.