Swedish police reported multiple gangs of masked youths on a rampage across five major Swedish towns, burning cars in what seems like a coordinated action.
Masked men set alight up to 80 cars in Gothenburg and other metropolitan areas on Sweden’s west coast. “This is much much bigger than it used to be, much more serious,” a police spokesperson told Swedish media. He said the events appeared to have been coordinated via social media.
He alluded to a criminal network.
The Daily Mail reported that multiple arson attacks were recorded with youths targeting vehicles in a shopping centre and hospital car park at Frölunda Torg, south-west of Gothenburg.
According to Swedish police, several metropolitan areas were targeted by the gangs:
Frölunda: A group of about 6-8 masked youth fires and throws stones. 31 cars have burned and in addition to these 35 cars are injured. Nobody is arrested.
Nordost: A group of about 8-10 young people throws stones and fires. 15 cars have burned. Nobody is arrested.
Trollhättan: A larger group of about 30-40 young people throws stones and fires. Six cars have burned and another few cars must be damaged. Here roads have been blocked by youngsters and they have even thrown stones against the police and their vehicles. At the moment, identification of young people is ongoing.
When most fires started within a short period of time, it can not be excluded that there is a connection between the fires, and the cases will be investigated, Swedish police stated on their website.
“We’ve never seen this many cars set on fire before,” a police spokesman in western Sweden, Hans Lippens, told AFP.
Sweden is meanwhile seeing the rise of conservatives ahead of next month’s election. The Sweden Democrats still trail the Social Democratic Party but has overtaken the main opposition Moderates in several polls.
While all mainstream parties have ruled out working with them, opinion polls put the Sweden Democrats at 20 percent of the vote, up from the 13 percent of votes they secured in the 2014 election and the 5.7 percent they won to enter parliament for the first time in 2010.
But they could emerge from the election on September 9 as kingmakers, effectively shaping policy.
They have called for a total freeze on asylum seekers and accepting refugees only from Sweden’s neighbours in the future. They also want tougher penalties for crime and a slashed immigration budget.
Jimmie Akesson, the leader of the Sweden Democratic party, has described his party’s rise as “pretty fantastic”. He told his members recently: “We are dominating the debate even though no one will talk to us.”
The government denies that it has lost control but Prime Minister Stefan Lofven nevertheless has not ruled out sending the military into problem areas.
“Sweden is going down a more right-wing path,” said Nick Aylott, a political scientist at Sodertorn University noted. “It is almost impossible to avoid according some sort of influence to a party with around 20 percent of the vote.”
The ruling party leader expressed anger at the attacks. “I am really furious, what the hell are they up to?” Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said during a radio interview on Tuesday morning.
“It looks very coordinated, almost like a military operation,” Löfven added. The government party, the Social Democrats, is facing the worst poll numbers in its history, the BBC reported.
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