Sweden gangs: PM summons army chief after surge in killings

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A damaged building is seen after a powerful explosion near UppsalaAFP

Sweden’s prime minister has summoned the head of the armed forces to help curb a surge in gang killings.

The two men and the country’s police chief will meet on Friday to discuss what role the military could play.

It comes after a bloody 12 hours that saw two men shot dead in Stockholm and a 25-year-old woman killed in a blast at home in a town north of the capital.

“We will hunt the gangs down and we will defeat them,” PM Ulf Kristersson promised in a rare televised address.

Armed forces chief Micael Byden told Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter he was prepared to assist police efforts.

It is not clear exactly how the military might get involved but previous talks suggest soldiers may take over certain policing duties to allow officers to free up resources for crime-fighting.

Some critics have described the proposed measures as superficial, arguing they treat the symptoms rather than root causes of the violence.

So far this month, 12 people have been killed in gang violence – the highest number since December 2019, according to Dagens Nyheter.

Swedish media have connected the recent surge to a conflict involving a gang known as the Foxtrot network, which has been rocked by infighting and split into two rival factions.

Mr Kristersson said Sweden had not seen anything like it before and that “no other country in Europe” was experiencing this kind of situation.

He stressed that children and innocent bystanders were increasingly being caught up in violence across the country.

The overnight explosion in Fullero, some 80km (50 miles) north of Stockholm, killed a woman thought to be a neighbour of a person with connections to organised crime.

She went to sleep “on a completely ordinary evening but never got to wake up”, the prime minister said.

A few hours earlier, a man in his 20s was killed in shooting in Jordbro, just south of the capital, according to public broadcaster SVT.

Separately, an 18-year-old man was shot dead at around 19:00 (17:00 GMT) near a Stockholm sports ground that was full of people, SVT reported.

Last year, more than 60 people died in shootings in Sweden – the highest on record – and this year is set to be the same or worse.

An official government report published in 2021 stated that four in every million inhabitants were dying in shootings each year in Sweden – compared with 1.6 people per million across Europe.

Police have linked the violence to poor integration of immigrants, a widening gap between rich and poor and drug use.

Mr Kristersson’s centre-right minority government which came to power last year, with the support of the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, has not yet been able to stem the violence.

The prime minister said on Thursday he would push ahead with more surveillance, harsher penalties for breaking gun laws, stronger deportation powers and stop and search zones – adding he had been learning from the mayor of New York after a visit to the city last week.

“Everything is on the table,” the prime minister said.

But one community organiser told the BBC he was “deeply disappointed” in the plans, saying they failed to address underlying social issues.

Sakariya Hirsi, head of Kollektiv Sorg, a group linked to Amnesty International, called for more action on child poverty and increased resources for youth clubs, community services and sports centres.

He said there was a lack of “concrete measures” in Mr Kristersson’s speech “for those suffering from trauma and loss – especially children – whose grief and pain we as a society must bear and address”.

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