Before EU Accession, Bulgaria Steps Up Fight Against Organized Crime

Like a scene from a Hollywood gangster film, two masked gunmen burst into the Amedic bar in Bulgaria's capital, Sofia, and opened fire on patrons watching a Bulgaria-Netherlands soccer game. Seconds later, their target, Nikolai Ivanov -- a.k.a the Beaver -- lay dead from 9 bullets; two of his associates lay bleeding on the floor next to him.

The slaying on Oct. 7 in the small Balkan nation was the latest bloody salvo in an organized crime turf war that has seen over four dozen mob hits in the past five years and, in the last decade, 120 contract-style killings -- many in broad daylight -- of businessmen, politicians, and journalists.

With Bulgaria on track to join the European Union on Jan. 1, 2007, this latest attack highlights persistent questions over Bulgaria's ability to reign in the violence and effectively police the EU's soon-to-be southernmost border.

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