Police report traces violent trajectory of Winnipeg gang

The notoriously violent Winnipeg street gang African Mafia has — since its inception in 2005 — splintered off into three factions and is expanding to parts of Alberta, says a report by organized crime investigators submitted Thursday in court.

African Mafia has splintered, is moving into Alta., says document submitted in court

Men who police say are members of the African Mafia gang pose for a photo inside a provincial jail in Headingley, Man. on Feb. 27, 2009. ((Federal Department of Justice/Manitoba Corrections))
The notoriously violent Winnipeg street gang African Mafia has — since its inception in 2005 — splintered off into three factions and is expanding to parts of Alberta, says a report by organized crime investigators submitted Thursday in court.

The report, based on investigations by the Winnipeg Police Service, was written by Det. Ryan Howanyk at the request of Crown prosecutors. It was submitted at the sentence hearing of Thon Guot, 21 and Mayen Madit, 23, in the Court of Queen's Bench in Winnipeg.

The two men, who have not contested the Crown's assertions that they are members of the African Mafia gang, are facing prison sentences — and possible deportation from Canada — based on a recent drug-trafficking conviction.

Guot and Madit, both of Sudan, were found guilty in summer 2009 of engaging in a drug-dealing operation.

The two men sold crack cocaine out of a roving vehicle in Winnipeg until an undercover Winnipeg police sting put an end to the opertion in October 2006.

At the sentencing hearing, the men did not dispute that their group should be considered a criminal organization by the courts.

The hearing continues on March 15.

CBC News obtained a copy of Howanyk's report, which reveals details about African Mafia's membership, origin and tactics.

Currently, police estimate there are about 40 to 50 active members and associates of the gang, which formed in Winnipeg in early 2005 and is made up primarily of young men who immigrated to Canada from war-torn parts of eastern Africa.

Bystander killed

The African Mafia splintered off from another Winnipeg street gang called the Mad Cowz after the fatal shooting of a 14-year-old boy by members of a rival group in 2004.

Jeffrey Cansanay has been charged with second-degree murder in the 2005 death of Phil Haiart, a bystander police say was caught in a shootout between rival criminal groups. Cansanay was originally acquitted, but the Supreme Court recently ordered a new trial in his case. ((Winnipeg police))
African Mafia members were upset the Mad Cowz didn't properly avenge the boy's killing, Howanyk writes.

A battle then ensued over the drug trade in Winnipeg's West End neighbourhood as the two factions violently competed for turf.

The tensions between the two groups led to the death of Phil Haiart, a bystander who was shot while walking in the West End in October 2005. An errant bullet fired in a shootout between African Mafia and Mad Cowz members struck Haiart, killing him.

Haiart's death sparked outrage in the city, prompting police to set up a special squad to conduct a crackdown in the area. What was then called Operation Clean Sweep became a full-time policing detail now known as the Street Crime Unit.

"The African Mafia, like other street gangs, need turf to survive, and like other gangs, the African Mafia uses violence and intimidation to expand their turf," the report says. 

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Jan. 14 that one of the people charged in Haiart's killing, Jeffrey Cansanay, who was initially acquitted, must face a new trial.

Cansanay was charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death but was acquitted in 2007 after Mad Cowz members Gharib Abdullah and Corey Amyotte refused to testify against him and the judge would not admit earlier statements they had made.

Last year, the Manitoba Court of Appeal struck down the acquittal and ordered a new trial. Cansanay appealed that decision but lost the appeal in Supreme Court.

Gang making forays into Alta.

African Mafia graffiti. Police say the addition of the letter 'K' — for killer — to the group's tag is its way of showing disrespect to rival gangs. ((Det. Ryan Howanyk/Winnipeg Police Service))
The report alleges that African Mafia members, now well-established in Winnipeg, have been travelling to and from parts of Alberta.

"This is due to areas such as Brooks, Alta., having large African immigrant populations," the report says. "Some members are travelling back and forth to further their criminal enterprises and to avoid detection from law enforcement."

Alberta police have arrested several members of the gang for a variety of crimes, he said.

Closer to home, police admit they are challenged by the African Mafia even though their operation is not as sophisticated as that of some other larger criminal organizations.

Members have been quick to learn about and adapt to police tactics and the Canadian justice system, the report says.

The gang has also become cagier in the way it operates in public, with members no longer wearing clothing adorned with gang logos or other signifiers.

Police have also noticed a trend whereby gang members no longer admit being part of the African Mafia when questioned by officers, the report said. 

"Because of the increasing number of persons being deported due to criminality and their membership and/or association to the African Mafia, many members are no longer self-admitting membership," the report says.

Six members of the gang have been deported from Canada because of criminal activity committed in Canada.

One of the men, Hussain Jilaow, was killed upon his return to Somalia.

Internal conflict spawns new gangs

Police are also having to contend with two new splinter groups of the gang, the report said.

Internal conflict within the African Mafia caused members to form Da Pitbull Army (known as DPA on the street) in 2006 and rivals All About Money (ABM) in 2008.

While members of DPA continue to associate with those from African Mafia, the same can't be said for the ABM faction, according to the report.

In the report, Howanyk writes that police were able to link a day-time drive-by shooting in south Winnipeg to conflict between the African Mafia and ABM. One man was shot and wounded in the shoulder.

"No arrests were made as a result of an un-cooperative witness," Howanyk wrote.