Sweden becomes worst country in Europe for shootings

Sweden becomes worst country in Europe for shootings

Gang shootings have escalated and spread across Sweden in recent years, with authorities struggling to contain the war-like violence that now tops voters' concerns ahead of Sunday's general election.

'This is my son, Marley, when he was 19 years old', Maritha Ogilvie tells AFP, holding a framed photo of a smiling young man, one of many that adorn the walls of her Stockholm apartment.

'He was shot in the head sitting in a car with a friend', says the 51-year-old.

The killing, on March 24, 2015 in Varby gard, a disadvantaged concrete suburb southwest of Stockholm, has never been resolved and the case was closed 10 months later.

Murders like these are usually settlings of scores between rival gangs often controlled by immigrant clans, according to police, and increasingly taking place in public places in broad daylight.

The violence is primarily attributed to battles over the drug and weapons market and personal vendettas.

It has escalated to the point where Sweden - one of the richest and most egalitarian countries in the world - now tops the European rankings for fatal shootings.

According to a report published last year by the National Council for Crime Prevention, among 22 countries with comparable data only Croatia had more deadly shootings, and no other country posted a bigger increase than Sweden in the past decade.

Despite various measures introduced by the Social Democratic government to crack down on the gangs - including tougher prison sentences and boosting police resources - the number of dead and injured continues to mount.

Since January 1, 48 people have been killed by firearms in Sweden, three more than in all of 2021.

There are also frequent bombings of homes and cars and grenade attacks.

At the police station in Rinkeby, one of Stockholm's disadvantaged suburbs, 26-year-old patrol cop Michael Cojocaru says he and his colleagues regularly encounter brutal violence reminiscent of war and seize assault weapons, grenades and explosives.

'You'll see wounds, people who've been shot with AK47s, who've been stabbed, people who have war wounds', he tells AFP.

'It's like a totally different society ... another type of Sweden'.

Experts attribute the escalating violence to a series of factors, including segregation, integration and economic difficulties for immigrants, and a large black market for weapons.

The recruitment of young teens into criminal gangs - who aren't tried as adults if they get caught - is also a major concern.