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CRIME

‘She had dreams’: Tributes paid to girl as police vow to bring killers to justice

Police and Swedish decision-makers vowed to do everything to bring the shooters to justice as friends paid tribute to the 12-year-old girl killed south of Stockholm.

'She had dreams': Tributes paid to girl as police vow to bring killers to justice
Local residents gathered at the petrol station where the girl was shot dead. Photo: Ali Lorestani/TT

Police were called to the shooting at 3.27am on Sunday at a fuel station in the Norsborg area of Botkyrka, south of Stockholm. The girl was taken to hospital, but later died from her injuries. According to unconfirmed reports in several Swedish newspapers, she was hit by a stray bullet and had not been the intended target.

Friends of the girl and local residents gathered on the site on Sunday to pay tribute to her.

“She was always full of energy and wanted what's best for everyone. She had dreams. She deserves all the best,” a 13-year-old friend who had come to the fuel station to light candles, told newspaper Expressen.

A mother-of-three whose son was also friends with the girl and had lived in the area her entire life, told Aftonbladet that her son had been planning to go swimming with the girl the following day. She said she and her children used to go to the fuel station regularly to eat at the nearby PizzaHut or McDonalds.

“We felt safe, but now there is no safety. I don't know what it would feel like to come here and eat in the future,” she said.

Meanwhile, police and decision-makers pledged to continue the crackdown on violent crime in Sweden.

“My thoughts are first and foremost with the girl's family and loved ones, but also to everyone in the area. Nobody should have to fear shootings and other violence where they live,” said national police chief Anders Thornberg in a comment to TT.

“We will investigate and do everything in our power to bring the people behind this terrible act to justice. We will collect witness statements, forensic evidence and all material that could help us move the investigation forward. But how successful we are also depends on those who know anything about the incident coming forward and helping us solve the crime.”

“We are going to set things right when it comes to increasingly serious violence in society, but in order to do that we have to continue to work together. When school, social services, police, civil society and citizens work together we will eventually succeed.”

Home Affairs Minister Mikael Damberg said he was “shocked and disgusted”.

“I am aware that no words are enough for those who have lost a child in this awful way, but I still want to say that our thoughts are with you and that we share your grief in these difficult times. The government will continue to expand society's crime-fighting capacity with more police, tougher punishments and preventive work,” he wrote in a comment to TT.

Sweden launched a so-called “special national incident” in November 2019 to look into violent gang crime incidents, but the number of shootings increased in the first four months of 2020 compared to last year.

Fifteen people were killed in 98 shootings between January and April, according to police statistics released earlier this year. In the same period of 2019, there were 81 shootings with 15 people killed.

However, the number of fatal shootings has remained relatively unchanged compared to previous years. Nine people were killed in 76 shootings during the same four months in 2018, and the year before that a total of 16 people were killed in 99 shootings.

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CRIME

Gang violence tops voter concerns ahead of Swedish election

Gang shootings have escalated and spread across Sweden in recent years, with authorities struggling to contain the war-like violence that now tops voters' concerns ahead of Sunday's general election.

Gang violence tops voter concerns ahead of Swedish election

“This is my son, Marley, when he was 19 years old”, Maritha Ogilvie tells AFP, holding a framed photo of a smiling young man, one of many that adorn the walls of her Stockholm apartment.

“He was shot in the head sitting in a car with a friend”, says the 51-year-old. The killing, on March 24, 2015 in Vårby gård, a disadvantaged concrete
suburb southwest of Stockholm, has never been resolved and the case was closed 10 months later.

Murders like these are usually settlings of scores between rival gangs often controlled by immigrant clans, according to police, and are increasingly taking place in public places in broad daylight.

The violence is primarily attributed to battles over the drug and weapons market and personal vendettas.

It has escalated to the point where Sweden — one of the richest and most egalitarian countries in the world — now tops the European rankings for fatal
shootings.

According to a report published last year by the National Council for Crime Prevention, among 22 countries with comparable data, only Croatia had more
deadly shootings, and no other country posted a bigger increase than Sweden in the past decade.

Shopping mall execution

Despite various measures introduced by the Social Democratic government to crack down on the gangs — including tougher prison sentences and boosting police resources — the number of dead and injured continues to mount.

Since January 1, 48 people have been killed by firearms in Sweden, three more than in all of 2021. There are also frequent bombings of homes and cars and grenade attacks.

For the first time, crime has dislodged the usual welfare state issues of health care and education and is one of Swedes’ main concerns in Sunday’s election.

While the violence was once contained to locations frequented by criminals, it has now spread to public spaces, sparking concern among ordinary Swedes in a country long known as safe and peaceful. On August 19, a 31-year-old man identified as a gang leader in Sweden’s third biggest city Malmö was gunned down in the Emporia shopping centre, several months after the death of his brother.

A 15-year-old was arrested for the murder.

A week later, a young woman and her son were wounded by stray bullets as they played in a park in Eskilstuna, a quiet town of 67,000 people west of
Stockholm.

The right-wing opposition, led by the conservative Moderates and the far-right Sweden Democrats who hope to wrest power from the Social Democrats,
have vowed to restore “law and order”. Defending the left from allegations of laxism, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has promised a “national offensive” against the scourge which poses “a threat to all of Sweden”.

‘Parallel societies’

According to Andersson, the escalating crime numbers are due to the emergence of “parallel societies” following “too much immigration and too little integration”.

Jacob Fraiman, an ex-gangster who now helps other criminals leave that life behind, says even he is shocked by the level of violence.

“I’m from another generation, obviously we had weapons too. But it wasn’t often you had to shoot someone”, he tells AFP in Södertälje, an industrial town south of Stockholm with a large immigrant population. “You used to shoot someone in the legs. Now, they’re told to shoot in the head”, he says.

At the police station in Rinkeby, one of Stockholm’s disadvantaged suburbs, 26-year-old patrol cop Michael Cojocaru says he and his colleagues regularly encounter brutal violence reminiscent of war and seize assault weapons, grenades and explosives.

“You’ll see wounds, people who’ve been shot with AK47s, who’ve been stabbed, people who have war wounds”, he tells AFP. “It’s like a totally different society … another type of Sweden”.

Experts attribute the escalating violence to a series of factors, including segregation, integration and economic difficulties for immigrants, and a large
black market for weapons.

The recruitment of young teens into criminal gangs — who aren’t tried as adults if they get caught — is also a major concern.

Seven years later, Maritha Ogilvie is still trying to understand why her son was killed. “He was just a normal kid”.

“I don’t know what happened with our society. I don’t know how they lost control over certain areas, but they did”, she sighs. “And it keeps on getting
worse”.

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