Two men who were fatally shot within days of each other were both members of the same MMA fight school – as police warned Sydney could be on the brink of another gang war.
Sydney’s close-knit gym community has been left behind by successive tragedies – which have taken place under very different circumstances.
Taha Sabbagh, 40, was executed in a ‘targeted attack’ after driving his black Mercedes SUV to the Elite Fight Force gym in Sefton on Thursday to take his 12-year-old son to a 6.30am boxing class.
Three days later, Hillal Barbour, 29, was shot dead by officers responding to a domestic violence call at a house in Yagoona, Sydney’s southwest.
Shortly after Mr Sabbagh’s death, a police source grimly warned of further carnage on the streets of a Sydney suburb.
It came amid suggestions that the execution was a case of mistaken identity or possible retaliation for the kidnapping of a jeweler last year.
“It will get much worse after this. It always does,” said the police source.
While investigators are treating the two shootings as separate incidents, Daily Mail Australia can exclusively reveal – in an extraordinary co-incidence – that members of both families use the gym and are friends with the owners, Hany Sbat and Adam Omar.
Hillal Barbour (pictured right, with his brother Mounir, left) was shot dead by police on Sunday
Businessman Taha Sabbagh, 40, (pictured with social media celebrity Hasbulla Magomedov) was executed outside Elite Fight Force, in Sefton, on Thursday
On Sunday, relatives called the police because Barbour threatened them with a kick.
When officers arrived, they were confronted at the door with the 29-year-old brandishing two knives.
The officers backed away from the house, but Barbour gave chase and managed to knock out one of the officer’s tasers with a knife before the other officer fatally shot him in the chest.
While Mr Sabbagh and his son were regulars at the gym, several of Barbour’s family members – including his two brothers Mounir and Mohamad – also have connections with the owners, the former once describing the gym as his ‘second home’.
Photos posted to social media show Mounir training at the center and posing alongside Mr Sbat, Mr Omar and other prominent partners including professional boxer Ali El-rich.
There is no indication that Mr. Sbat, Mr. Omar, Mounir, Mohamad or Ali El-rich are involved in criminal activities.
On Sunday, Mr Omar – also known as Boxa Yass – and Mr El-Rich both shared a tribute to Barbour circulating on Instagram, calling on fellow Muslims to keep him and his family in their prayers.
Barbour (right) was shot dead by officers responding to a domestic violence incident
Police flocked to William Street in Yagoona, southwest Sydney, on Sunday after the deadly shooting
Meanwhile, Mounir activates his account to publish a scathing post about rumors circulating in the wake of his brother’s death.
“Please, everyone keeps it [my brother] in your dua [prayers] and not to believe the words of the liars who spout false stories,” Mounir wrote.
“I love you, my brother.”
NSW Assistant Commissioner of Police Stuart Smith said Barbour swung the knives at officers shortly after they arrived at the house.
He said the petty officer deployed a taser, which impacted Barbour, but he was still able to attack her.
She lost her footing and fell backwards, but Barbour continued the charge. He then turned his attention to the male officer, who fired three shots into his chest.
The two officers – who were unharmed save for a minor knife wound to the male officer’s neck – then performed CPR until paramedics arrived.
Barbour was rushed to Liverpool Hospital in critical condition but later died.
It is clear that he had a history of mental health problems.
Mounir Barbour is friends with Elite Fight Force owners Hany Sbat (pictured together) and Adam Omar. There is no indication that Mr. Sbat and Mr. Omar are involved in any criminal activity
Mounir and some of his relatives are also friends with Adam Omar – aka Boxa Yass. There is no indication that Mr. Sbat and Mr. Omar are involved in any criminal activity.
Just days earlier, 2 miles away, Mr Sabbagh was found slumped over the console of his black Mercedes SUV after being shot at least six times in front of his 12-year-old son.
Police believe two perpetrators lay in wait to ambush the father, while detectives are investigating whether he was the “intended target” of the brutal attack.
A witness heard Mr. Sabbagh’s son scream, “Help my father has been shot!” before a car sped away. A white Mazda 3 was later found burnt out at Birrong railway station nearby.
Paramedics desperately tried to revive Mr. Sabbagh, but he could not be saved and died on the spot.
Underworld sources have claimed Mr Sabbagh’s death was a case of mistaken identity or possibly retaliation for the kidnapping and torture of a jeweler last October.
The jeweler was reportedly held for 24 hours and tortured until $10 million was arbitrarily paid.
Police tape surrounded the boxing center on Thursday after the father was shot in the parking lot
The Mazda 3 used in the shooting was later found burnt out at nearby Birrong railway station
Daily Mail Australia is not suggesting that Mr Sabbagh was behind the kidnapping, but it is clear his murder may have served as a ‘warning signal’ to criminal gang members, some of whom train at the Elite Fight Force gym.
“Some of the staff at that gym were behind the kidnapping… this is retaliation,” an underworld source told the Daily Telegraph.
“They are some of the toughest bad guys in that gym…it will happen now, these guys will get their revenge too.”
There is no suggestion that the jeweler, who is currently overseas, is involved in any criminal activity or the murder of Mr Sabbagh.
A police source said separately regarding Mr Sabbagh’s fatal shooting: ‘It’s going to get a lot worse after this. It always does.’
Both shootings are still under investigation.
A critical incidents team, made up of officers from the State Crime Command’s Homicide Division, is investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident in Yagoona.
Bodycam, CCTV footage and the firing of a firearm will be investigated and the investigation will be subject to an independent review.
Mourners paid their respects to Mr Sabbagh at 1pm Saturday at a service at Lakemba Mosque (pictured), in southwest Sydney