In a break from the government line which had sought to downplay gang violence, Sweden’s Police Commissioner Anders Thornberg admitted there is “no equivalent internationally” to the recent massive increase in bomb attacks.
“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,” Thornberg said, during a press conference Wednesday.
Just this past week, a bomb exploded in a Malmo apartment complex, another device blew up on a balcony in Hassleholm and explosives were found outside a shopping mall in Kritsianstad.
The country is struggling to curb the increasing use of explosives by criminal gangs, in addition to an uptick in shootings and other armed assaults.
Few of the country’s at least 100 bomb attacks so far this year have caused serious injury, but the fact that attacks using explosives have doubled since 2018 is cause for public concern and political embarrassment. In addition, some 70 unexploded devices are still being investigated.
Sweden has witnessed a dramatic upswing in attacks using grenades and improvised explosive devices since 2015, in which small businesses, residential blocks and even police stations have been targeted, with devices ranging in size from the equivalent of a firework to bombs big enough to rip the facade off two apartment buildings, as happened in the town of Linkoping.
“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.
Stockholm alone was struck by three blasts in one night in October, including a suspected attack on a Syrian Orthodox Church, which had repeatedly been targeted in the preceding 12 months.
Interior Minister Mikael Damberg has introduced a bill that will impose tougher rules on the sale of firearms, in a bid to combat rising gang violence in the country, with the legislation likely to enter into force on July 1, 2020. However, as yet there are no clear parallel initiatives aimed at stopping the country’s spate of bomb attacks.
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