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Sweden PM asks military to help tackle violent gangs

A police officer stands on the site of a powerful explosion that occurred early Thursday morning Sept. 28, 2023.
A police officer stands on the site of a powerful explosion that occurred early Thursday morning Sept. 28, 2023. Copyright Anders Wiklund / TT/TT/TT
Copyright Anders Wiklund / TT/TT/TT
By Euronews
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“No other country in Europe is seeing anything like this," said Ulf Kristersson, amid a surge in gang-related shootings and bombings.

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Sweden’s prime minister said on Thursday he has asked for the military's help to deal with an unprecedented crime wave that has shaken the country. 

Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said he would meet with the armed forces supreme commander and the national police commissioner on Friday. 

The talks will focus on “how the armed forces can help police in their work against the criminal gangs,” he said, implying the main goal will be to get soldiers to take over protection duties from police to free up more resources for crime-fighting.

It wasn’t immediately clear in what capacity the military would get involved and is a highly unusual step for the Scandinavian country. 

The step was prompted by a severe wave of shootings and bombings that have claimed a dozen lives across Sweden, including teenagers and innocent bystanders.

Three people were killed overnight in separate attacks with suspected links to criminal gangs, which often recruit teenagers in socially disadvantaged immigrant neighbourhoods to carry out hits.

One of the victims was a woman in her 20s who died in an explosion in Uppsala, north of Stockholm. Swedish media said she was likely not the intended target of the attack.

Newspaper Dagens Nyheter said an 18-year-old rapper was killed late Wednesday in a shooting outside a sports complex on the outskirts of Stockholm.

More than 60 people died in shootings last year in Sweden, the highest figure on record. This year is on track to be the same or worse. 

“Sweden has never before seen anything like this,” Kristersson said in a televised speech to the nation. “Swedish laws aren’t designed for gang wars and child soldiers."

Kristersson's centre-right government took power last year with a promise to get tough on crime, but so far hasn't been able to stem the violence. 

The government and the leftist opposition have been trading accusations over who’s to blame for the situation. 

The opposition says the government has made the country less safe while Kristersson put the blame on “irresponsible migration policies and failed integration" under the previous government.

Sweden long stood out in Europe along with Germany for having liberal immigration policies and welcoming hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers from the Middle East and Africa. 

Sweden has since sharply restricted migration levels, citing rising crime levels and other social problems.

The prime minister said the government is overhauling Sweden's criminal code to give police more powers, criminals longer sentences and witnesses better protection.

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