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Sweden's Christmas goat succumbs to flames

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The Christmas goat was torched by an American tourist in 2001.
07:21 CET+01:00
The giant 13 metre tall Christmas goat (Gävlebocken) in the main square of Gävle, on the east coast of Sweden went up in flames early Friday morning after an attack by unknown assailants.

“Only the skeleton is left,” said Sven-Erik Hammar of the Gävle police to news agency TT.

Police received a call in the early hours of Friday, reporting that the goat was on fire. Five minutes later it had gone up in smoke.

The giant straw goat, which has been erected in the town's main square every year since 1966, undergoes a battle against the elements and local arsonists every year, which splits loyalties in the town.

Half of the inhabitants take pride in the giant animal, while the other half take equal pride in attempting to burn it down.

This year's goat was the 45th to be erected in the town. At least 28 of these have been burned down before the end of the Christmas season.

The burning of the goat has made headlines both in Sweden and abroad.

In 2001, it was torched by an American tourist, who served a month in jail and was fined 100,000 kronor ($14,700), while claiming in his defense that he thought he had been participating in a local and perfectly legal tradition.

Since 1988 people have been able to place bets on whether it will survive, or how long it lasts before being burnt down.

Previous attempts to sabotage it have included the bribing of security guards and a foiled helicopter heist.

Each year, new ingenious methods are employed to guarantee the survival of the goat, whose story has reached the Guinness Book of World Records, and 2011 is no exception.

This year, those trying to protect the goat doused it in water with the idea that if it freezes, it will be much more difficult to burn down, according to daily Aftonbladet.

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However, perhaps due to the unusually mild weather, their idea didn't quite work out.

Despite emergency services arriving on the scene within a few minutes, he goat could not be saved.

“It all went damn quickly,” said eye-witness Felix Söderström to daily Aftonbladet,

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