Youths set fire to cars in organised attacks in Swedish cities

Apparently co-ordinated attacks began on Monday in Gothenburg and nearby towns

The co-ordinated attacks took place in Gothenburg and surrounding smaller towns. Photograph: Adam Ihse Sweden/EPA

The co-ordinated attacks took place in Gothenburg and surrounding smaller towns. Photograph: Adam Ihse Sweden/EPA

 

Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven said he was “really furious” after masked youths set fire to about 100 cars in cities across the country, six weeks before the country’s general election.

A police spokesman in western Sweden said they were braced for another night of violence, saying “this can last for two or three days when it starts”.

On Tuesday police arrested two people in connection with the Monday night attacks, which appear to have been co-ordinated on social media. Eyewitness videos, shared with Swedish media organisations, show masked youths dressed in black hoodies smashing car windows, dousing them in petrol and set them alight in cities including Gothenburg, Stockholm and Uppsala.

“We heard some bangs outside, went to look through the window, saw fire and ran down to look,” said Elisabetta Stanosis from Gothenburg, whose car was among 17 torched in her street.

Police say the attacks began at about 9pm on Monday and were concentrated around Gothenburg and nearby towns such as Falkenberg and Trollhättan, an industrial area with high unemployment.

Investigators are studying video and images submitted by eyewitnesses and are confident they will identify and charge most of the perpetrators.

Summer phenomenon

Police declined to confirm a motive but suggested a link to events of previous years, when Swedish cities have seen violence from school-going teens, co-ordinated online, towards the end of the summer holidays.

“At the beginning we realised it can’t be a coincidence that these attacks started in such a short space of time in several places,” said a police spokeswoman. “Before going back to school, for some reason, they want to spoil and destroy things. I can’t say why they do it.”

The attacks, with echoes of the consecutive nights of violence five years ago, have fired up law-and-order concerns as the Swedish election draws near.

Mr Löfven, the Social Democrat prime minister, said on national radio he would like to ask the perpetrators “What the hell are you doing?”

“It seems very co-ordinated, almost like a military operation,” said Mr Löfven, who runs for re-election on September 9th. “Society is always going to react strongly to this kind of thing.”

Gang violence

Despite steady economic growth, growing concerns over public order in Sweden – gang violence claimed 40 lives last year – have squeezed support for Mr Löfven’s party ahead of next month’s poll. Voters are concerned by the knock-on effects of immigration as well as slipping education and welfare standards.

While the Social Democrats poll their worst-ever results, the populist, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats are on course to become the second-largest party in the next parliament. On Facebook the party’s leader, Jimmie Åkesson, warned that “Sweden is on fire again”.

“If you are happy with what Sweden looks like today, you can continue to vote for the old parties,” he said. “But if you want a change – for real – you should vote for me and my party.”