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In the aftermath of the discovery of eight bodies in rural Ontario this weekend, police sources have pointed to outlaw biker gangs, a criminal element with a bloody history in Canada.

During the 1990s, about 160 people died during the decade-long turf war in Quebec between the Hells Angels and a smaller biker club called the Rock Machine.

The Hells Angels wanted absolute control over the distribution of illegal drugs in the Montreal area. From 1994 to 2001, the Rock Machine fought furiously to keep its share of the market, and scores died as hostilities spread through Quebec.

When the turf war peaked during the mid-1990s, it was being won by the Hells Angels, who had greater resources and systematically killed off their rivals one by one.

The largest mass killing occurred in September, 1995, when the Rock Machine tried to plant a bomb at the clubhouse of a Hells Angels-affiliated gang. They were spotted and their bomb went off, killing three Rock Machine supporters.

While most casualties of the biker war were criminals, they also included two prison guards and an 11-year-old boy who was hit by shrapnel from a car bomb in August, 1995. The death of young Daniel Desrochers and the outrage that followed prompted Bill C-95, legislation that stiffened penalties for convicted offenders who are shown to be members of established criminal organizations.

Then, in the fall of 2000, facing public outrage over the growing death toll and the shooting of reporter Michel Auger, the Hells Angels and the Rock Machine announced a ceasefire in their war.

It was short-lived.

Within weeks, the Rock Machine obtained probationary membership in a major gang, the Bandidos -- historical rivals of the Hells.

The Rock Machine had just started three chapters in Ontario, and the merger handed the Bandidos a toehold in the one major province still eluding the Angels.

The Hells Angels responded by offering other Ontario biker gangs a one-time-only proposal, which included immediate membership and no probation phase. By early 2001, they were a powerhouse in Ontario.

Today, the province's roughly 250 Hells Angels and associates insist they are a motorcycle club, not a criminal organization. The Bandidos, while considered the world's second most powerful outlaw motorcycle gang, have only one tiny toehold left in Canada -- their Toronto chapter.

While biker violence has a long history, it has only rarely flared up into mass murder like the most notorious gangland settling of accounts, the Lennoxville Massacre.

In the mid-1980s, the Hells Angels in Quebec decided that one chapter, located in the suburb of Laval, north of Montreal, had become too rowdy and unreliable because of members' drug and financial problems.

In March, 1985, five members of the chapter were lured to a meeting at a clubhouse in Lennoxville, Que., where they were machine-gunned. Another was murdered later.

The following month, the police raided the Lennoxville clubhouse and looked in vain for the bodies of the six missing bikers. Eventually, during a ghoulish 10-day period in June, bloated bodies surfaced from the St. Lawrence River. They had been wrapped in sleeping bags, chained to concrete blocks and dumped in the water.

Five Hells Angels were eventually sentenced to life for the Lennoxville murders. Nine others pleaded guilty to reduced charges of being accessories after the fact.