16 cars torched overnight in Malmo, Swedish police puzzled for motive

FILE PHOTO © Fredrik Sandberg
Sixteen cars have been set alight overnight in Malmo, taking the total number of arson attacks in the Swedish city to over 70 since July 1. Despite calling in reinforcements, police still have not been able to catch any of the perpetrators.

The vehicles were torched at various locations around the city, with the first reports of arson attacks taking place at 20:00 local time. Within an hour nine cars were left burnt out in various neighborhoods. 

“All our stations are overloaded and the whole of the Malmo force is out extinguishing the car fires,” fire commander Magnus Johansson told SVT. “It is a burden for our organization, but also for other people who really need our help,” he added. 

The burning of cars continued into the early hours of Friday morning, with a further 11 vehicles torched. A total of nine neighborhoods were affected by the arson attacks.

“This kind of pace [of attacks] won’t be sustained indefinitely,” Southern Sweden Police information officer Calle Persson told the TT news agency, as cited by the Local. 

Persson added that no disturbances were reported around the locations where the vehicles were set alight, leaving the police scratching their heads about why the spate of arson attacks are taking place. 

“A lot of cars have been burned in a short time now. We don’t know why it’s happening right now. We haven’t had any major social unrest,” Malmo police spokesperson Ewa-Gun Westford said, according to the TT agency.  

Over 70 cars have now been targeted in arson attacks since July and the city’s police have drafted in a helicopter from Gothenburg to try and help them capture those committing the crimes. So far police have not made any arrests. 

Arson attacks have not only taken place on cars. In April, an Arab school in the city was set on fire by arsonists. The perpetrator almost ran over police in his vehicle as he attempted to flee the scene. The school was opened in 1996, with around 300 children attending the learning facility. 

Meanwhile in late July, an explosion at an apartment block rocked the center of Malmo. However, the cause of the blast was unclear. 

The city’s police commissioner Mats Karlsson spoke to the Local in the wake of the explosion and said the authorities were “not been able to see any connection to terrorism.” 

"It is unclear who is using that apartment, because it is not the people who are registered at the address, but we have an idea of who it might be. It is still very serious, but these incidents are criminals attacking criminals, it's not something directed at outsiders, at ordinary people," he said. 

In July 2015, Malmo was rocked by four grenade attacks in the space of a week, which continued a pattern of explosions, shootings and arson attacks which had affected Sweden’s third-largest city. Gang violence was once again blamed for these incidents. 

According to statistics provided by the local authorities in 2015, 31 percent of the city’s 300,000 residents were born abroad and nearly 43 percent of residents have a foreign background.

Immigrants have normally come from countries that have been plagued by conflicts, with sizeable migrant groups from Iraq, Syria, the former Yugoslavia and Somalia. Data from the city’s authorities also states that around 20 percent of Malmo’s population is Muslim.