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CRIME

Swedish police chief: No international equivalent to Sweden’s wave of bombings

Sweden's sees 'no equivalent internationally' to its wave of bombings this year, national police chief Anders Thornberg said as he addressed public concern about the increasing use of explosives by criminal gangs.

Swedish police chief: No international equivalent to Sweden's wave of bombings
Sweden's police chief Anders Thornberg, right, with the head of the national criminal intelligence unit, Linda Staaf. Photo: Stina Stjernkvist/TT

Regularly placed near the top of the UN's Human Development Index and among the world's richest countries in terms of GDP per capita, the Scandinavian country is facing an unusual challenge as bombings become a regular occurrence.

“We see no equivalent internationally,” Swedish police commissioner Thornberg said on Wednesday, addressing public concern about the escalating violence.

“I understand that many people are worried about what is happening, there's a sense that the criminals' vendettas are creeping closer to the general public,” he said.

In the past week alone, a bomb exploded in a stairwell in a Malmö apartment building, an explosive device was found outside a shopping centre in the southern town of Kristianstad, and a blast rocked the balcony at a block of apartments in Hässleholm in southern Sweden.

While few of the blasts have caused serious injuries, the national bomb squad has been called out to investigate around 100 explosions in the first 10 months of the year.

That's more than double the number for the same period last year. In addition, more than 70 undetonated devices have been investigated.

“You have to conclude that this has become a trend, one that is escalating,” Linda Staaf, head of the national police's criminal intelligence unit, told AFP.

Apartment buildings, small businesses and police stations have been targeted.

The bombs have varied in size, with some the equivalent of large fireworks while others have been larger: in June a blast ripped apart the facade of two apartment buildings in the town of Linköping.

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An explosion in Hässleholm, southern Sweden, on November 7th. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

The full picture behind the bombings is complex, and overall Sweden remains a country with low levels of violence.

“It seems likely that a lot of the time it's about sending a message rather than actually hurting someone,” crime researcher Manne Gerell told The Local last week. “But [the motives are] largely unknown since most cases aren't solved, and it's unknown the extent to which the explosions are performed by non-gang members.”

The bombings are largely the result of vendettas between criminal gangs, Staaf told AFP.

Criminals have increasingly been using explosives over the last several years, but while they previously preferred hand grenades and other factory-made explosives, they have recently shifted to home-made and more powerful devices, Staaf said.

The reason for the shift was unclear, but police have established a pattern in the criminals' choice of weapons, she added.

While they use bombs to threaten, intimidate and blackmail targets, they use shootings to kill and eliminate enemies.

In the first 10 months of 2019, there were 268 shootings and 33 deaths, compared with 248 shootings and 37 deaths in the same period a year earlier.

Sweden's main daily Dagens Nyheter also reported in October that deadly shootings of men aged 20 to 29 had increased by 200 percent between 2014 and 2018.

The violence in criminal circles has grown more severe over time, Staaf said, as vendettas, usually stemming from the drug trade, are often aimed at out-doing the other side rather than responding in a tit-for-tat manner.

“Sometimes the original dispute has been long forgotten, and it's just about retribution,” Staaf told AFP.

She said most of the perpetrators had grown up in areas the Swedish police describe as “vulnerable”.

In June, the police published a list of some 60 such areas in Sweden, characterized by poor socio-economic conditions where “criminals have an influence on the local community”.

For youths growing up in these areas with little hope or prospects, violence becomes a way to make a name for yourself.

“We have examples of people who have quickly gained a lot of prestige by fatally shooting someone, on someone else's behalf,” Staaf said.

Police chief Anders Thornberg said the rising violent crime presented an “incredibly complex challenge”, but stressed law enforcement was stepping up efforts.


Around 25 people received minor injuries when a bomb exploded outside a building in Linköping in June. Photo: Jeppe Gustafsson/TT

Surprisingly few explosions have led to serious injuries.

“In most cases it's pure luck that more people haven't been injured or killed,” Staaf said, adding that perpetrators seem to show little concern for innocent bystanders.

There have however been a few fatalities, and the deaths of two young children in two separate incidents in 2016 and 2015 that sparked outrage.

Most of the violence targets criminals or increasingly their families, but bombings have also been carried out over love triangles and even “just for fun”, Staaf said.

When it comes to other types of violent crime, Sweden is still at low levels.

A study by the National Council for Crime Prevention in June concluded that while violent crime had risen in the country, it was still below levels recorded in the 1990s.

And while killings in criminal circles were up, murders within families had decreased.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the average global homicide rate was 6.1 per 100,000 people in 2017, the average in Europe was 3.0, while the Swedish homicide rate was only 1.1 per 100,000.

Article by AFP's Johannes Ledel and edited by The Local

Member comments

  1. It is doubtful that any of this would be happening without the in-migration of muslim “youths growing up in these areas with little hope or prospects, violence becomes a way to make a name for yourself.” Meanwhile, it is a world wide trend that with increased automation and AI, fewer jobs will be available to ALL western youth. … So keep allowing those unemployables into our borders and you have the ideal formula for a bleak and violent future. It’s time that over populated and dysfuncional middle eastern countries focus on fixing their problems rather than exporting them westward. The Left must stop destroying our western values from within.

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POLITICS

Swedish party leader calls for chemical castration of sex offenders

Sweden's Christian Democrats have called for tougher sentences for sex offenders and making release conditional on chemical castration.

Swedish party leader calls for chemical castration of sex offenders

The Swedish Christian Democrats (KD) leader has called for the chemical castration of certain sex offenders as part of plans for a tougher grip on sexual crime and punishment in Sweden.

Speaking to the Swedish parliament on July 1st, KD party leader Ebba Busch said, “Every day, 27 rapes are reported. How many days must pass before the government takes action?”

“Today we propose that rapists and people who commit sexual crimes against children should be able to be chemically castrated.”

The controversial chemical castration proposal was the headline grabbing soundbite in a broader set of proposals to recalibrate the structure of Sweden’s sexual crime sentencing.

Among KD’s proposed sentencing changes is a life sentence for the aggravated rape of a child, the removal of automatic conditional release for sex offenders, and an increase in the sentence for aggravated rape up to a maximum of 25 years.

In addition, they want a “monitoring period” for convicts who have been released, equivalent to one third of the sentence served.

They also want to establish a national knowledge centre for sexual violence where people who feel that they have “problematic sexuality” can receive support. The center must also “be able to administer chemical castration on a voluntary basis to those who are concerned about unwanted sexual thoughts and impulses and have a compulsive sexuality”.

READ ALSO: What’s the Swedish Christian Democrats’ abortion contract all about?

Chemical castration, she suggested, should be implemented as a condition of release for some sexual offenders. “It may mean that if a person like Nytorgsmannen is to be able to become a free man, a chemical castration must have taken place before the release,” Busch said, referring to Andreas Holm, a man sentenced in 2021 for 35 different crimes including 24 rapes.

But this is not the first time the Christian Democrats have toyed with the idea of chemical castration as a form of legal punishment. As far back as 20 years ago, under former leader Alf Svensson, the right-wing party raised the idea of conditional chemical castration of rapists and pedophiles.

At the time the proposal was rejected by all other parties.

Chemical castration, the process of preventing sex hormone production through chemicals, can reduce sexual libido but the effects on those with deviant behaviours are relatively unknown.

Chemical castration can also prove costly as it is not a one-off treatment but rather requires regular interventions, which means the police would be reliant on those sentences to chemical castration making regular trips to the authorities for further treatment.

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