Criminal gangs believed responsible for arson attacks in Sweden

Monday evening coordinated attacks small groups of young men dressed in black torched between 80 and 100 cars. The fact that the attacks took place in several cities at roughly the same time led police to believe the arsonists had organized themselves on the internet. So far authorities aren’t saying who is responsible but Sweden’s Prime Minister is promising to “go in hard” against whoever it is. From the Guardian:

“I am really furious, what the hell are they up to?” Stefan Löfven on Tuesday morning. “Society will always act hard against this and we must continue to do so … We will do what needs to be done to take care of it and go in hard against this crime.”

Sweden goes to the polls on 9 September with violent crime high on the political agenda after a spate of shootings and grenade attacks, largely in deprived areas with large concentrations of immigrants.

So who is responsible? The answer to that question is still a bit vague. Some suspect this will turn out to be the work of criminal gangs while others are pointing at far right extremists:

On Tuesday evening police said they suspected a link between Monday night’s unrest in the Gothenburg area and the large number of arrests of criminal gang members in the city during the summer.

The coordinated nature of the attacks made some suspect an attempt by the far right to whip up anti-immigrant sentiment ahead of the election, in which the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats are vying to become the country’s largest political party.

Daniel Riazat, an MP for the Left party, said on Twitter: “I would not be surprised if far right extremists were involved in some way.”

But while the Guardian suggests this might be connected to the recent crackdown on criminal gangs, the NY Times quotes a police spokesperson saying almost the opposite, i.e. police did nothing at all to prompt this:

Dan Windt, a police spokesman, told Svenska Dagbladet: “This is something that came completely out of the blue without having been triggered by a police intervention or anything else. It is pure hooliganism and ill will from young criminal men who are wreaking havoc on their own neighbors.”

Hooliganism? That sounds like a stretch at first but apparently, Sweden has a couple thousand car fires like this every year, only usually they’re not so concentrated. The country averages about four of these per day and the top time to set these fires is 10 days before school starts, i.e. right about now. So maybe hooliganism might explain this. But the Local notes that one of the hooligans sought by police was caught trying to flee to Turkey:

The man, who is in his 20s, travelled to Turkey on Tuesday but was stopped at the border.

“We found out that this person left for Turkey and then issued a ‘no entry’ to border police there who managed to seize him. Hopefully he is to return today and then Swedish police will take care of him,” Dan Windt, head of the southern Gothenburg policing area, told Gothenburg newspaper GP…

“We will be bringing more people into custody tonight and tomorrow. I think it’s around ten youths acting at the same time. These are criminal guys, older teenagers, who live in the area,” Dan Windt, head of policing area Greater Gothenburg South, told the TT news agency on Tuesday.

“We really know in what groups this is happening and are now going to work with crime prevention on the ground,” he added.

It sounds like the police already have a handle on who is responsible. But given that an election is only a few weeks away, I wonder if we’re going to get the full story anytime soon. Here’s video of the arsonists fleeing the scene in Gothenburg. Note there is some NSFW language in this clip: