Sweden’s Police Frustrated By Criminal ‘Clans’, As Crime Escalates

(FILES) Police work on August 2, 2020 at the site where a twelve-year-old girl was shot dead near a petrol station in Botkyrka, south of Stockholm. Police in Sweden says they’re struggling to control mafia-like criminal “clans” exercising their own form of justice, amid an escalation of violent crime in what has long been a tranquil and safe country.

 

Police in Sweden says they’re struggling to control criminal “clans” exercising their own form of justice, amid an escalation of violent crime in what has long been a tranquil and safe country.

With close family loyalties and little regard for the authorities, a few dozen criminal gangs now wield considerable influence over some of Sweden’s disadvantaged neighbourhoods, say experts.

Shootings, bombings and grenade attacks have become regular events in cities and towns across the country. Media outlets report on drug wars, blackmail, and witnesses too fearful of repercussions to testify.

“Have you seen the movie ‘The Godfather’? Then you know what it’s like,” journalist Johanna Backstrom Lerneby, who wrote a book about one of Sweden’s most infamous crime families, told AFP.

Gang members tied to the family Backstrom Lerneby wrote about recently made headlines in Sweden when, during a feud with a rival gang in August, they set up makeshift roadblocks, stopping cars and asking to see passengers’ ID cards.

One young man interviewed by broadcaster SVT, who would not give his full name but claimed to be involved in the car checks, said the controls were set up to “protect residents and children in the area”.

– Sidelined authorities –

The feud came to a halt in late August — but not because police arrested any suspects.

Instead, members of several gangs met at a Gothenburg hotel and agreed to end hostilities, effectively ending the strife overnight.

“It’s very frustrating because it is a good solution in the short term… but it was resolved in the wrong way,” local police officer Fredrik Terje told SVT, deploring that authorities had been sidelined as criminals set the agenda.

The problem of these “criminal clans” has made headlines since early September, when deputy police chief Mats Lofving told Swedish Radio there were at least 40 family-based criminal gangs in Sweden.

“Far from everyone wants to be a part of Swedish society,” Lofving said, adding these families had come to Sweden solely for the purpose of committing crime, bringing with them their own parallel systems of government.

Lofving said these families were making their way into business and politics in order to wield more formal influence, primarily in disadvantaged suburbs, many of which have a large proportion of residents with immigrant backgrounds.

Sweden has struggled to integrate many of its immigrants, with thousands failing to learn the language proficiently and find jobs in its highly skilled labour market.

“Those who live in these vulnerable areas are often relatively poor people who don’t have a choice, even if they wanted to move away,” Backstrom Lerneby said.

The violence has also harmed innocent bystanders. In early August, a 12-year-old girl was killed by a stray bullet in a drive-by shooting in Stockholm, sparking an outcry over the ruthless violence.

In early September, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven called the criminal gangs a “poison in our society that we need to get rid of”.

Police have not disclosed which criminal groups have this family structure nor which countries they’re from.

In recent decades however, gangs with roots in the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans have made headlines.

Lofven himself has nevertheless refused to “link crime to ethnicity”, a sensitive subject in the public debate amid accusations of xenophobia.

– Dug in –

Overall, Sweden remains a country with low levels of violence. Its murder rate in 2018 was 1.07 per 100,000 inhabitants compared to the European average of 2.39, according to Eurostat, and compared to 5.0 in the United States according to the FBI.

But Sweden’s Minister for Home Affairs Mikael Damberg expressed concern in an interview with AFP that the family-based gangs had gained a foothold.

“These family-based networks have existed for some time in Sweden. They have been able to dig in, especially in the vulnerable areas in Sweden, where the state hasn’t been present enough,” Damberg told AFP.

It was important for authorities to move back in, he added.

Police have made it a priority to increase their presence in these neighbourhoods, an important move “to show that Swedish law applies in Sweden”, he said.

The government has, among other things, increased surveillance powers for police, toughened sentences for drugs- and weapons-related crimes and rolled back more lenient sentencing policies for young offenders.

But in a widely reported statement in late August, police officials admitted they were still struggling.

“We are working intensively, around the clock, and despite that the serious violence is continuing… We’re not backing down and we’re not giving up, but the situation right now is very stressful,” national police chief Anders Thornberg said.

During the first six months of 2020, 20 people have been killed in 163 shootings in the country of 10.3 million, compared to 42 deaths in 334 reported shootings in all of 2019, according to police.

Ronaldo Scores Brace Against Sweden To Cross 100-Goal Mark

Portugal's forward Cristiano Ronaldo (L) shoots past Sweden's defender Filip Helander (C) and Sweden's defender Pontus Jansson during the UEFA Nations League football match between Sweden and Portugal on September 8, 2020 in Solna, Sweden. Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP
Portugal’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo (L) shoots past Sweden’s defender Filip Helander (C) and Sweden’s defender Pontus Jansson during the UEFA Nations League football match between Sweden and Portugal on September 8, 2020, in Solna, Sweden. Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP

 

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice against 10-man Sweden on Tuesday to take him to 101 international goals for Portugal on Tuesday.

The mythical 100-mark was broken on the stroke of half-time of a UEFA Nations League match against Sweden.

The 35-year-old Juventus attacker curled in a free-kick from 25 yards over the wall and into the far left corner beyond Sweden’s stranded goalkeeper Robin Olsen for a memorable milestone in his trophy-laden career.

The bonus second goal, and his 101st, came in the 72nd minute, the former Manchester United and Real Madrid player cutting back inside the Swedish defence and producing a deft finish into the far corner from 20 yards.

After making his first senior international appearance as an 18-year-old in 2003, Ronaldo notched up his first goal for Portugal in a 2-1 defeat by eventual winners Greece at Euro 2004.

Ronaldo, capped 165 times by Portugal, is second only to Iran’s Ali Daei, on 109, in the list of top men’s international goal scorers.

Incredibly for Ronaldo, just 17 of his 100 goals have come in friendly matches, and his nine hat-tricks all came in FIFA or UEFA tournaments or qualifying games.

His 100th goal came at a stadium in Sweden which was the scene of a memorable Ronaldo display in the second leg of a World Cup qualifying playoff in 2013.

Ronaldo had scored the only goal in the first leg, and then exchanged goals with Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the second.

Ronaldo hit a hat-trick between the 50th and 79th minute while the Swedish star hit two in four minutes in the middle of the outburst. Portugal won the match and the playoff.

 

 

AFP

Chasing A Century, Ronaldo Hints At Return Against Sweden

Portugal’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his team’s victory at the end of the UEFA Nations League final football match between Portugal and The Netherlands at the Dragao Stadium in Porto on June 9, 2019. PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP

 

Portuguese media and fans were on Monday anticipating Cristiano Ronaldo’s 100th international goal after the attacker hinted on social media that he was fit to return to face Sweden.

Ronaldo missed the opening game of his country’s Nations League defence against Croatia with a toe infection, but posted “happy to be back” on Instragram on Sunday, along with photos showing him training with the squad for the first time since last Tuesday.

Portugal play Sweden on Tuesday in Solna, the scene of a memorable Ronaldo display in the second leg of a World Cup qualifying playoff in 2013.

Ronaldo had scored the only goal in the first leg, and then exchanged goals with Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the second. Ronaldo hit a hat-trick between the 50th and 79th minute while the Swedish star hit two in four minutes in the middle of the outburst. Portugal won the match and the playoff.

The 35-year-old Juventus star has now scored 99 international goals and is chasing the men’s record of 109 by Ali Daei of Iran.

Yet while Portuguese media were on Monday excited by the prospect, the emphatic 4-1 win over Croatia led some to suggest Portugal could free itself from its “Ronaldo-dependance”.

“Never has Portugal had so many quality attacking players,” wrote Manuel Queiroz in sports daily O Jogo, singling out Bruno Fernandes of Manchester United, Bernardo Silva of Manchester City and Joao Felix of Atletico Madrid. He added that the country has “a great deck of cards even without the fourth ace.”

Other publications praised Manchester City right back Joao Cancelo, who opened the scoring with a curling left-foot shot and others mentioned Ronaldo’s replacement Diogo Jota of Wolves.

AFP

Sweden Uncovers 3,700 False Positives From COVID-19 Test Kit

Karin Hildebrand, a doctor in an intensive care unit (ICU) in Stockholm’s Sodersjukhuset hospital walks in a corridor before treating patients with COVID-19 on June 11, 2020, during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP)

 

Sweden’s Public Health Agency said Tuesday a faulty test kit had returned some 3,700 false positive results, an error discovered by two laboratories during routine quality controls.

The agency said the PCR kits, which test for an ongoing COVID-19 infection, were made in China by the company BGI Genomics and had been distributed worldwide.

In Sweden, the kits were used by people conducting at-home tests between period March and August, the agency said.

Mostly, “people who had mild symptoms or who didn’t feel any symptoms at the time of the test received false positive results,” the agency said in a statement.

It added that it would contact those affected this week, as well as adjusting Sweden’s official number of cases.

“The faulty test kit has been reported to the Swedish Medical Products Agency. It has been exported by China to many other countries,” the agency said, adding that it has “informed relevant authorities in Europe and the WHO”.

Sweden on Tuesday said it had 86,891 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus and 5,814 deaths.

AFP

Sweden Signs On To EU’s AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine

Karin Hildebrand, a doctor in an intensive care unit (ICU) in Stockholm’s Sodersjukhuset hospital walks in a corridor before treating patients with COVID-19 on June 11, 2020, during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.  Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP.

 

Sweden said Thursday it had agreed to take part in the European Union’s deal with pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca to secure a supply of a coronavirus vaccine as soon as it is discovered.

The deal means Sweden, a country of 10.3 million people, would get around six million doses of the vaccine in an initial phase, and two million more in a later phase.

“Within two weeks we will have three more (vaccine) agreements to consider, and after that there will be another three or four in a month or two. We are negotiating with everyone to make sure we are covered,” Sweden’s national vaccine coordinator Richard Bergstrom told reporters.

AstraZeneca said in July that its vaccine, developed together with the University of Oxford, should be available by the end of the year.

Sweden, which has made headlines for its softer approach to the new coronavirus, said on Thursday it had 85,810 confirmed cases and 5,805 deaths.

AFP

Sweden To Audit Crisis Preparedness In Light Of COVID-19

 

Sweden, under fire internationally for its handling of the coronavirus, said Thursday it would audit its ability to secure crucial resources during a crisis after a report found fault with its preparedness.

The Scandinavian country’s approach to COVID-19, softer than the rest of Europe, has sparked rows with the World Health Organization and US President Donald Trump, and put it at odds with its Nordic neighbours.

The mission to analyse the country’s ability to secure resources was given to the government funded Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI), which on Wednesday had published a report detailing shortcomings in Sweden’s ability to respond to the crisis.

The report’s researchers found that Sweden had not been prepared for the crisis despite several “warning shots”, including the spread of SARS in 2002, the avian flu in 2006 and the swine flu in 2009.

“Still Sweden stood, like many other countries, with an incomplete preparedness when the corona pandemic hit,” the report said.

“The corona pandemic has put weaknesses in Swedish crisis preparedness and the robustness of society in the spotlight,” it added.

The report also noted the shortage of protective equipment and other medical supplies, coupled with broken supply agreements and delivery problems which highlighted a lack of “high level planning”.

The requested analysis, to be completed by November, is also to serve as the basis for a more in-depth future government probe.

Sweden, which recently appointed a commission to evaluate its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, never closed society down, opting instead to keep schools for under-16s, cafes, bars and restaurants and most businesses open.

The country’s Public Health Agency has argued that lockdowns only work temporarily, insisting that drastic short-term measures are too ineffective to justify their impact on people.

The approach has however been the subject of intense debate, especially as Sweden’s death toll has far surpassed the tolls in neighbouring Nordic countries, which all imposed more restrictive containment measures at the outset of the pandemic.

On Thursday, the country of 10.3 million inhabitants reported a total of 70,639 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, and 5,411 deaths.

AFP

Support for Sweden’s COVID-19 Response Falls – Poll

Karin Hildebrand, a doctor in an intensive care unit (ICU) in Stockholm’s Sodersjukhuset hospital walks in a corridor before treating patients with COVID-19 on June 11, 2020, during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP)

 

Confidence in the Swedish authorities’ ability to manage the coronavirus pandemic has fallen, a poll published on Tuesday showed, as the death toll has soared amid a highly-publicised light approach.

Unlike most European nations, Sweden never closed society down, opting instead to keep schools for under-16s open, as well as cafes, bars and restaurants and most businesses.

The Public Health Agency argued that lockdowns only work temporarily, insisting that drastic short-term measures are too ineffective to justify their impact on people.

The country of 10.3 million has reported 5,122 COVID-19 deaths, far exceeding the combined total of its Nordic neighbours which all adopted much stricter measures.

As a result, many countries now opening up to tourism have barred Swedes from entry, including closest neighbours Denmark, Finland and Norway.

Stockholm has also been slow to roll out mass testing.

An Ipsos poll of 1,191 Swedes published in daily Dagens Nyheter showed that in June, 45 percent had “strong confidence” in authorities’ ability to handle the crisis.

READ ALSO: South Africa To Start Africa’s First COVID-19 Vaccine Pilot

That compared with 56 percent in April, while those who had “little confidence” rose from 21 to 29 percent.

And 57 percent now have “strong confidence” in the Public Health Agency, down from 69 percent in April.

Support for the agency’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, who has become the face of Sweden’s strategy, remains relatively strong although it has declined from 69 to 60 percent.

Those who believed the centre-left government was coping well with the crisis meanwhile dropped from 50 percent in May to 38 percent in June.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven’s support also dropped from 49 percent to 39 percent.

“The differences are big enough that we can say with certainty that there has been a real change. The view of authorities’ capabilities has taken a clear negative turn,” Ipsos analyst Nicklas Kallebring told Dagens Nyheter.

AFP

Sweden COVID-19 Deaths Pass 4,000 – Health Authorities

Philip FONG / AFP

 

Sweden, which has gained international attention for its softer approach to the coronavirus than many of its European neighbours, said on Monday its number of deaths passed the 4,000 mark.

The Public Health Agency said it had recorded 4,029 deaths and 33,843 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the country of some 10.3 million inhabitants, with 90 percent of the deceased over the age of 70.

Sweden’s death toll has far surpassed the tolls in neighbouring Nordic countries, which have all imposed more restrictive containment measures.

According to website Worldometer, Sweden’s virus death rate of 399 per million inhabitants is far higher than Norway’s death rate of 43 per million, Denmark’s rate of 97, or Finland’s rate of 56.

However it is still lower than France’s 435, the UK’s and Italy’s 542, and Spain’s 615.

Critics have accused Swedish authorities of gambling with the lives of citizens by not imposing strict stay-at-home measures. But the Public Health Agency has insisted their more relaxed approach is sustainable in the long-term and has rejected drastic short-term measures as too ineffective to justify their impact on society.

The Scandinavian country has kept schools open for children under the age of 16, along with cafes, bars, restaurants and businesses, while urging people to respect social distancing and hygiene guidelines.

READ ALSO: Italy Proposes 60,000 Volunteers For Post-virus Vigilance

State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell of the Public Health Agency has repeatedly insisted that stricter measures would not have saved more lives.

Three-quarters of Swedes who have died have been either in nursing homes or receiving at-home care.

Tegnell noted that a ban on visits to nursing homes was introduced in mid-March, but said elderly residents needed regular contact with their carers — who were believed to have spread the virus around many nursing homes.

“I’m really not sure that we could have done so much more,” he said in a weekend interview with Swedish Radio, acknowledging nonetheless that the country had ended up in a “terrible situation that highlights the weaknesses of our elderly care.”

He said care homes had initially failed to respect basic hygiene rules that could have curbed the spread of the disease, but said the situation had since improved.

AFP

Sweden Records Over 3,000 Coronavirus Deaths

Picture taken on April 29, 2020 shows a memorial in Stockholm’s Mynttorget square in memory of loved ones lost to the new coronavirus featuring candles, flowers and handwritten notes, some of which express frustration over Sweden’s softer approach to curbing the illness. Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP.

 

Sweden on Thursday reported more than 3,000 coronavirus deaths, after gaining international attention for imposing softer lockdown measures than many of its hard-hit European neighbours.

The Public Health Agency of Sweden said it had recorded 3,040 deaths and 24,623 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the country of some 10.3 million inhabitants.

But officials defended their strategy of not imposing strict stay-at-home measures, saying Sweden’s healthcare system still had spare capacity.

“The curves show that we have, to a large extent, been successful in keeping (the outbreak) within the limits of what the healthcare system can manage,” state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told reporters.

Sweden has not imposed the kind of extraordinary lockdown measures seen elsewhere in Europe, instead opting for an approach based on the “principle of responsibility”.

The Scandinavian country has kept schools open for children under the age of 16, along with cafes, bars, restaurants and businesses, while urging people to respect social distancing guidelines.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Death Toll Tops 150,000 In Europe

The Swedish approach has received criticism both domestically and abroad, particularly as deaths lept passed tolls in neighbouring Nordic countries, which have all imposed more restrictive containment measures.

According to the website Worldometer, Sweden’s virus death rate of 301 per million inhabitants is far higher than Norway’s death rate of 40 per million, Denmark’s rate of 87, or Finland’s rate of 46.

However, it is still lower than the UK’s 443, Italy’s 491 and Spain’s 558.

Despite the criticism, Swedish officials have insisted their plan is sustainable in the long-term, rejecting drastic short-term measures as too ineffective to justify their impact on society.

AFP

Sweden Targets 100,000 Coronavirus Tests Weekly

 

The government said Friday that testing for COVID-19 would be dramatically increased as Sweden maintains its softer stance on curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

It would be rolled out over the coming weeks and primarily target those in key roles, such as police and firefighters, in addition to patients with severe symptoms and healthcare personnel who are already prioritized, to allow them to return to work faster after showing symptoms.

“We are talking about testing and analysis capacity of 50,000, perhaps as many as 100,000, a week,” Health Minister Lena Hallengren told a press conference.

So far almost 75,000 people have been tested in Sweden, Hallengren said.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: Wuhan’s Death Toll Rises To 3,869

The Public Health Agency said it had looked at the whole testing chain and would leverage new actors, such as employers, to collect samples via take-home kits and private sector companies to help analysis.

Sweden has not imposed the extraordinary lockdown measures seen across Europe, instead urging people to take responsibility and follow official recommendations.

The government has banned gatherings of more than 50 people and barred visits to nursing homes.

On Thursday, Sweden reported 12,540 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,333 deaths.

Again Vandals Destroy Ibrahimovic’s Statue In Sweden

The statue of Swedish football player Zlatan Ibrahimovic in Malmo, Sweden, is pictured after it has been completely sawn down and destroyed during the night to January 5, 2020. 
Johan NILSSON / TT News Agency / AFP

 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s statue in his hometown of Malmo was vandalised overnight Saturday, Swedish police reported.

The statue has been the target of numerous attacks since the Swedish footballer invested in Stockholm-based Hammarby, angering supporters of Malmo FF, the club where he began his professional career.

In November, a day after his investment in Hammarby, Ibrahimovic filed a “hate crime” complaint after the statue was attacked with fire and paint and the word ‘Judas’ daubed across the front door of his Stockholm home.

In the latest incident, the statue had collapsed against the barrier protecting it, its feet partially chopped off.

READ ALSO: ‘Ruthless’ Real Madrid Thrash Getafe

“A vandalism complaint has been lodged,” a police spokesperson told AFP.

There are calls from local inhabitants for the statue outside Malmo’s city stadium to be moved.

“I can understand that many people are disappointed in Zlatan’s behaviour but vandalising a statute is simply unworthy. Better to express your dissatisfaction in a democratic way,” Malmo deputy mayor Frida Trollmyr told AFP.

A citizens’ initiative to move the sculpture will be considered in February, she added.

Ibrahimovic, 38,  is set to make his debut for former club AC Milan in Serie A on Monday after signing a six-month contract with the former European champions last week.

AFP

Kosovo Declares Nobel Laureate Handke ‘Persona Non Grata’

Austrian author and laureate of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Literature Peter Handke gives a speech during a royal banquet to honour the laureates of the Nobel Prize 2019 following the Award ceremony on December 10, 2019, in Stockholm, Sweden. Anders WIKLUND / TT News Agency / AFP

 

Kosovo declared Peter Handke a ‘persona non grata’ on Wednesday in the latest protest against his induction as a Nobel literature laureate, barring the Austrian writer from a place he has visited numerous times.

The Swedish Academy’s pick for the 2019 prize has reopened old wounds in the Balkans, where many see Handke as an apologist for Serb atrocities during Yugoslavia’s bloody collapse.

One Nobel committee member resigned over the choice, while Tuesday’s award ceremony was boycotted by representatives of the embassies of Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Turkey.

“Today I have decided to declare Peter Handke as not welcome in Kosovo. He is a non-grata person… Denying crimes and supporting criminals is a terrible crime,” Kosovo’s Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli wrote on Facebook.

The writer is not popular among Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian-majority, who fought Belgrade for independence in a 1998-99 war that claimed 13,000 lives.

But he was a frequent guest in the tiny Serb enclave of Velika Hoca, one of several small ethnic Serb communities scattered around the former Serbian province.

Handke has visited Velika Hoca at least five times and donated nearly 100,000 euros ($110,000) to the community of 500 people, whose village is nestled among the rolling hills of southern Kosovo.

“Even if there are big problems, I think life has a good rhythm here”, the writer said during a 2014 visit.

“I can be alone here. I can hide. I can walk very hidden behind the hills,” he added.

Barred from Sarajevo

Handke’s elevation to Nobel laureate has also been painful for many Bosnian Muslims, as he is accused of questioning the genocide in Srebrenica, where Bosnian Serbs slaughtered 8,000 Muslim men and boys in 1995.

On Wednesday he was formally barred from Bosnia’s capital Sarajevo, where the regional government said his appearance would “provoke the anger and humiliation” of war victims.

Yet he is still welcome to visit the Serb-run zone that spans nearly half of Bosnia’s territory — a legacy of the war that left the country carved up along ethnic lines.

On Tuesday Handke told RTRS, the public broadcaster in Bosnia’s Serb-run region that he would like to visit “in the spring”.

Handke has defended his work and denied any allegiance to the late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.

Critics say Handke made his loyalties clear by speaking at the funeral of Milosevic, who died in 2006 while on trial in The Hague for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Handke’s 1997 book “A Journey to the Rivers: Justice for Serbia” was also accused of minimising Serb war crimes.

But among Serb fans, Handke is still celebrated for taking note of their suffering during the conflicts and challenging the narrative that Serbs were the sole aggressors in the wars.

In Belgrade, one politician suggested creating a human rights prize in Handke’s name on Wednesday.

Handke was one of “very few who searched for the truth during the 1990s,” said MP Mirjana Dragas, describing the author as a “brave, but above all great, novelist”.