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Left-wing activists held over Stockholm car fires

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Left-wing activists held over Stockholm car fires
17:50 CET+01:00
Stockholm-area police arrested nine left-wing activists on Wednesday in connection with a string of disturbances in the southern suburb of Fittja in Botkyrka.

For several nights earlier in the week, Fittja Centrum was plagued by several car fires and other acts of vandalism. Police who responded to the violence were then met with a barrage of stones when arriving on the scene.

But when police responded to calls about continued unrest in the predominantly immigrant area on Wednesday night, they recognized a 20-year-old woman who is wanted on suspicion of rioting from an earlier case.

Police then tracked her to a nearby apartment where they found the woman along with eight other people, all of whom had ties to Antifascist Action (AFA), a militant left-wing anti-fascist organization.

In the apartment police also discovered rocks and other objects indicating that the activists intended to target police in additional attacks and then flee, Sveriges Radio reports.

Members of AFA were also involved in a number of disturbances over the past year in the Rosengård neighbourhood in Malmö, another predominantly immigrant district plagued by ongoing tensions between law enforcement and local residents.

“This is a group of demonstrators who appear to show up at different times in different places to protest against different things,” Södertörn police spokesperson Mats Nylén told The Local.

“I guess you could call them general troublemakers.”

AFA activists were involved in arranging a demonstration in Rosengård in August which was also plagued by violence. At the time local residents voiced their displeasure at the group's presence in the area, blaming the left-wing activists for adding to tensions between locals and the police.

The group was also blamed for stepping up violence in conjunction with Rosengård disturbances which took place in December 2008 and went a long way toward cementing public perceptions of the area as a dangerous immigrant neighbourhood.

“If the troublemakers from AFA hadn't shown up ‘to help out', there never would have been any fighting,” Rosengård resident Andreas Konstantinides told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper at the time.

Malmö police spokesperson Charley Nilsson also blamed AFA for the “violent escalation” which marked the December riots in Rosengård.

Following Wednesday's arrests, Stockholm County police commissioner Carin Götblad condemned AFA's role in once again stepping up violence.

“We view seriously the fact that people are consciously trying to incite riots in our suburban areas,” she said in a statement.

However, Nylén offered few details about the ongoing investigation into the disturbances.

“All I can say is that the AFA members were present at the time that criminal activity was taking place,” he said.

He added that the investigation is moving forward and that prosecutors could file requests as early as Friday to have the suspects remanded.

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