Sweden sets up special police force to combat gang violence

Photo: EPA People lay flowers and light candles at the place of the shooting incident in Malmo.

Swedish police announced on Monday a special task force to deal with a wave of shootings and bombings linked to criminal gangs would be set up, news wires reported. The measure comes after on Saturday two 15-year-olds were shot outside a pizza restaurant in Malmo in a gang conflict over drug trade control in the area. One died immediately and the other is in critical condition.

The attack was preceded by a large car bomb about a mile away which police believe was intended to divert their attention. “There was a black weekend for Malmo and for its police,” Malmo police chief Stefan Sinteus told reporters. Following the attack, the police's Department of National Operations said they had set up a special task force with a nationwide mandate to fight gang activities, to be called Operation Hoarfrost.

Sweden has long held a reputation as being one of the safest countries in the world and while overall crime and murder rates remain low, gang wars in major cities have claimed an increasing number of victims in recent years. So far this year here had been 187 bomb attacks, up from 152 in the whole of 2018.

In June, about 20 people were wounded when a bomb exploded on a residential street in Linkoping in southern Sweden. By the end of August, about 26 people had been shot dead in Sweden against 45 last year as a whole and pressure on the government to act has been mounting.

The ruling left-green coalition has widened sentences for gun crimes and promised extra resources for the police. But opposition parties claim the effort is too litte, too late. On Monday, the far-right Sweden Democrats, who have been gaining support among voters worried about violent crime, called a motion of no confidence in Justice Minister Morgan Johansson. “He has done too little,” Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Akesson told Swedish radio. “There is a lot of talk where they send signals, but in practice nothing happens.”

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