Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 23 September 2020

Sweden vows to get tough on gangs after stray bullet kills Stockholm girl, 12

Swedish home affairs minister said recruitment of young people into criminal groups must be stopped

People gather near to where a twelve-year-old girl was shot and killed near a petrol station in Botkyrka, south of Stockholm, Sweden, Monday Auust 3, 2020. TT via AP
People gather near to where a twelve-year-old girl was shot and killed near a petrol station in Botkyrka, south of Stockholm, Sweden, Monday Auust 3, 2020. TT via AP

The Swedish government has renewed its pledge to clamp down on gangland warfare after a girl, 12, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Stockholm at the weekend.

The girl, who was not identified by the authorities, was hit early on Sunday morning by a stray bullet in a gang shooting at a petrol station car park south of Sweden's capital.

The bullet fired from a car was intended for two men with connections to a criminal gang, local media reported.

Police have launched an investigation but have not arrested any suspects yet.

On Monday, people placed candles and flowers in the car park where the shooting took place, calling for tougher action on gang violence.

Flowers and candles in the shape of a heart where a twelve-year old girl was shot dead early August 2, 2020, at a motorway service area in Botkyrka, south of Stockholm, Sweden. EPA
Flowers and candles in the shape of a heart where a twelve-year old girl was shot dead early August 2, 2020, at a motorway service area in Botkyrka, south of Stockholm, Sweden. EPA

Such incidents have been on the rise in recent years, shocking Swedes who have long considered their country to be one of the world’s safest.

Home Affairs Minister Mikael Damberg told Swedish broadcaster SVT that police were making great efforts in the murder hunt.

“If we don’t stop the new recruitment of young people into the criminal circles, harsh measures will not mean anything,” Mr Damberg said.

He called the girl’s death “terribly tragic”.

“You feel a great anger towards the criminal gangs who show no empathy because their shootings affect others,” Mr Damberg said.

National police chief Anders Thornberg told the TT news agency that the force would do everything in its 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,” Mr Thornberg said.

“But how successful we are also depends on those who know anything about the incident coming forward and helping us solve the crime.”

Justice Minister Morgan Johansson called the killing a “heinous atrocity”, and said he was dismayed and shocked to hear of the incident.

Mr Johansson pledged to impose harsher sentences on criminal gangs and post more police to prevent similar tragedies.

Opposition MP Johan Forssell urged a radical rethink “to make Sweden safer”.

Swedish police, who have recently been granted more surveillance powers, can now hand out tougher sentences for drug and weapons-related crimes, but that has not prevented the sharp rise in gang-related violence.

Twenty people have been killed in 163 shootings in the first six months of this year, police figures show. In 2019, 42 died in 334 reported shootings.

About 257 bomb attacks were reported to the police last year in Sweden, a 60 per cent increase from 2018, statistics from the National Council for Crime Prevention show.

Almost all of these attacks are thought to have been linked to gangs.

Authorities have identified about 60 deprived areas of Sweden, mainly in the suburbs of large cities, where unemployment is high, incomes are low, drugs are rife and gangs have gained influence.

In November, police launched a task force to fight violent crime after a boy, 15, was killed in Malmo when a gunman opened fire on a pizza restaurant.

Updated: August 5, 2020 04:59 AM

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