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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - The Swedish government has renewed its pledge to clamp down on gangland warfare after a 12-year-old girl was killed in a drive-by shooting in Stockholm over the weekend.
The young girl, who has not been identified by the authorities, was hit early on Sunday morning by a stray bullet in an apparent gangland shooting at a petrol station car park south of Stockholm.
Local media reported that the bullet fired from a car was intended for two men with connections to a criminal gang. 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.
Officials have vowed to crack down on gang crime. 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, adding that the girl’s death was “terribly tragic”.
“You feel a great anger toward the criminal gangs who show no empathy because their shootings affect others.”
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.”
There was further outcry from MPs. Justice Minister Morgan Johansson called the killing a “heinous atrocity”, saying that he was dismayed and shocked to hear of the incident. Mr Johansson vowed to impose harsher sentences on criminal gangs and mobilise more police to prevent similar tragedies in the future.
Opposition MP Johan Forssell urged a radical rethink “to make Sweden safer”.
Swedish police, who have recently been granted more surveillance powers, can now mete out tougher sentences for drug and weapons-related crimes, but that has not prevented the spike in gang-related violence.
Twenty people were killed in 163 shootings in the first six months of this year, according to police figures. This dwarfs the number for the whole of 2019, when 42 died in 334 reported shootings. Some 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 gang violence.
Authorities have identified around 60 deprived areas of Sweden, mainly in the suburbs of large cities, where unemployment is rife, incomes are low, drugs are rife and gangs have gained influence.
In November, police launched a task force to fight violent crime after a 15-year-old boy was killed in Malmö, when a gunman opened fire on a pizza restaurant.
Updated: August 4, 2020 05:31 PM
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