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4 Aug, 2020 02:12

12yo girl killed by stray bullet in gang war near Stockholm, leaving Sweden ‘shocked & dismayed’

12yo girl killed by stray bullet in gang war near Stockholm, leaving Sweden ‘shocked & dismayed’

A drive-by shooting near the Swedish capital has left a 12-year-old girl dead, stoking shock and outrage as the government once again vows to step up policing and impose harsher sentences to stop a wave of gang violence.

The young girl, who has not been identified by authorities, was shot early on Sunday morning near a McDonalds in a suburb south of Stockholm, later dying in hospital from her injuries. The victim is not believed to have been the intended target in the shooting, but was hit by a “stray bullet” fired at two men said to be tied to a criminal gang, according to local press reports.

Justice Minister Morgan Johansson has dubbed the incident a “heinous atrocity,” saying he was “dismayed and shocked” to hear of the shooting while vowing to mobilize “more police” to prevent similar tragedies in the future and impose “harsher sentences” on criminals.

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While the murder has been reported as a gang-involved homicide, local authorities cautioned that they had not yet determined the exact circumstances of the shooting, calling on the public to come forward with any information or evidence they might have. “I cannot confirm any such reports, but want to underline that we are in great need of witnesses and observations,” local police chief Carolina Paasikivi told the TT newswire.

The shooting has ignited a firestorm of controversy across Sweden, drawing criticisms of the government from the public and opposition MPs, among others, who insisted authorities take more aggressive action to tackle crime.

“Enough is enough!” tweeted Adam Marttinen, the legal policy spokesman for the Sweden Democrats, casting blame on the government for failing to prevent the tragic shooting while calling for a “war” on organized crime.

A spokeswoman for the right-of-center Moderate party, Maria Stenergard, similarly pointed a finger at the authorities and their approach to crime, tweeting: “So deeply saddened that we have a government that is totally incapable of seeing that people – not least children – are getting [hurt] really bad as a result of the public so completely capitulating.”

With the police investigation currently at an early stage, authorities are also reportedly seeking information on a white car that was seen around the crime scene at the time of the shooting, around 3:30am. No arrests have yet been made, but several suspects have been taken into custody for questioning.

National police chief Anders Thornbern said investigators would do “everything in [their] power to bring the people behind this terrible act to justice,” but noted that authorities were also depending on “those who know anything about the incident coming forward,” urging “schools, social services, police and citizens” to work together on the investigation.

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Sweden has seen an uptick in fatal shootings and other violent crimes in recent years, much of it believed to be tied to feuding criminal gangs. In the first four months of 2020, 15 people were killed in 98 separate shooting incidents, according to police statistics. The same period in 2019 saw 81 shootings, though with the same number of fatalities, up from 76 shootings and nine deaths the year prior. The country has also witnessed an unprecedented wave of bombings, with its national bomb unit called out to more than 100 blasts last year alone, many involving hand grenades and homemade IEDs.

“We've seen, over the last couple of years, that the amount of explosions in Sweden have risen to a level not seen anywhere else in Europe,” police official Stefan Hector told a local newspaper earlier this year, adding: “The reasons, or underlying cause, are criminals clashing.”

Amid the surge in gang violence, dozens of so-called “no-go zones” have emerged in some neighborhoods – dubbed “vulnerable areas” by police – where crime and poverty rates soar and law enforcers struggle to maintain an effective presence. While Swedish authorities have repeatedly pushed back on the “no-go” label, arguing officers are not actually barred from entering the areas, emergency workers have complained of a lack of security for personnel in such neighborhoods, pointing to the fact that first-responders often can't do their jobs without police escorts.

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