80 cars lit on fire by masked rioters in Western Sweden
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Masked or hooded people on Monday night destroyed at least 80 cars by lighting them on fire in different locations in western Sweden - and the police suspect it was a coordinated attack.
The Swedish police claim they have a good idea of which individuals were in the effected areas at the time.
- We have identified and talked to young people who have been there. But it is not possible to say if they were the ones who started the fires. We are talking to their parents, "said Hans Lippens, police spokesman.
Later on Wednesday, a 19-year old was detained in his absence by Interpool in Turkey, suspected of playing a major role in the riots. The 19-year old is living near Gothernburg and a diplomatic process has been initiated for having him released from Turkey.
Started on Monday night
Just after 9 pm on Monday evening local time, the first call about burning cars came in from Västra Frölunda to Swedish 112. (911)
At about the same time, calls came in from Hjällbo.
"Several witnesses state that have seen 5-6 youth dressed in black who lit the cars on fire," said Ulla Brehm, communication officer at the Western Sweden Police:
"There were allegedly young people in dark hoodies and Adidas sports pants that lit fire on cars. Then they ran away".
Similar alarm calls soon also came from Angered in northeast Gothenburg. Also there, masked adolescents allegedly had been setting cars on fire.
"I heard bangs and sounds and went out and looked. I saw a car starting to burn, then another one and another one. Then I saw the guys running away. Fully dressed in black with hoods. Maybe 6-7 people. Then they ran up towards Frölunda square", said a witness who lives in Frölunda.
In total, at least 80 vehicles were burned in Gothenburg, Trollhättan and Lysekil, police say. During Tuesday morning, the police have identified young people who have been in the area.
There has been speculation that there was a political motif for the riots, given that the Swedish election is coming up in September. However, neither police or academic experts on politically motivated violence has yet found such a connection, according to Swedish media.
Social outreach programs address problems in poorer neighbourhoods by welcoming youth to the fire service and police professions
Burning cars and young men throwing rocks at police, and sometime also firefighters, has occasionally been a problem for several years in Sweden. Similar riots have historically happened in poorer neighbourhoods outside of the three major cities Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö.
Several social outreach programs have been initiated by the fire services in order to make youth in the effected areas feel welcome in the first response professions. The outreach programs have been reportedly quite effective but have not managed to get rid of the problems entirely.
Riots in Sweden are often described in foreign press as a large and ongoing problem, however these types of events are quite rare compared to many other countries in Europe. Often, right-wing extremist groups use Sweden as an example to illustrate certain alleged social problems in their propaganda articles on the internet: However, in fact, statistics show that Sweden has less violence and social problems than many other comparable countries.
Cover Photo: Firefighters respond to several burning cars nears Gothenburg. Photo: Henric Vesanen
Photo above: A local bystander captured the moment when the some of the first few cars were lit on fire.