Sweden PM summons army, police chiefs over widespread gang violence

Sweden PM summons army, police chiefs over widespread gang violence

Sep 29, 2023 - 01:30
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Sweden PM summons army, police chiefs over widespread gang violence

Following a wave of violence that claimed at least 11 lives in September alone, the prime minister of Sweden on Thursday announced he had summoned the head of the armed forces and the police commissioner in an effort to stop gang violence.

On Wednesday, two individuals were killed in separate shootings in Stockholm, and in the early hours of Thursday, a bomb in Uppsala decimated a home, killing a lady in her 20s who was believed to be an innocent bystander.

“This is a difficult time for Sweden. A 25-year-old woman went to bed last night on a completely ordinary evening but never got to wake up,” Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said during a rare televised address to the nation.

“We will hunt the gangs, we will defeat the gangs,” he said.

After the election of last year, Kristersson, with the aid of the populist and anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats, created a minority center-right government, ending eight years of Social Democrat-led governments in Sweden.

A number of initiatives, including giving police more authority and tougher penalties for gun offences, have been implemented by his coalition, which won the election in part on a vow to stop the spread of gang violence.

Although the measures have not yet taken effect, Kristersson blamed previous administrations for the issues.

“It is an irresponsible immigration policy and a failed integration that has brought us here,” Kristersson said.

Sweden, which has long maintained open immigration policy, welcomed more immigrants per person in 2015 than any other country in Europe. These regulations were toughened during Kristersson’s administration but were restored by the previous Social Democrat-led administration. Of Sweden’s 10.5 million people, almost 20% were born overseas.

The administration was urged to modify the law to allow the military to assist in putting an end to gang violence earlier on Thursday by the opposition Social Democrats, the largest party in parliament.

“This is not Sweden, this is not how Sweden is supposed to be,” Social Democrat leader Magdalena Andersson told a news conference.

The supreme commander of the armed forces and the commissioner of the national police have been called, according to Kristersson, to discuss the options.

According to police estimates, 30,000 persons in Sweden are either directly involved in gang crime or have connections to it. Additionally, violence has migrated from large cities to smaller communities where it was previously uncommon.

Two individuals were shot dead and two others were injured earlier this week when a gunman opened fire at a pub in Sandviken. September is the worst month since December 2019 according to the 11 shooting deaths this month.

“The criminal conflicts in Sweden are a serious threat to the safety and security of the country,” National Police Commissioner Anders Thornberg said in a statement.

“Innocents are murdered and injured. We are doing everything we can within the police and together with others to stop the development.”

(With agency inputs)

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