Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson summoned the head of the armed forces and the police commissioner to a meeting in an attempt to curb gang violence, which has claimed at least 11 lives in September alone. In the last week alone, two people were killed in separate shootings in the capital, Stockholm, and another woman was killed in an explosion while walking in the city of Uppsala.
"This is a difficult time for Sweden. A 25-year-old woman went to bed last night on a completely ordinary evening but never got to wake up," Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said during a rare televised address to the nation in which he declared:
We will hunt the gangs, we will defeat the gangs.
To do this, the army will be deployed to the streets to help police with surveillance, logistics and analyze the "extremely exceptional situation" they are going through. In addition, legal reform has begun to make progress since, according to the Prime Minister, the current legislation is not "designed for gang wars and child soldiers." The changes would focus on toughening penalties for violent crimes and cracking down on immigration reforms.
Kristersson formed a center-right minority government after last year's election with the support of the conservatives, ending eight years of social democratic governments in Sweden. The prime minister blamed previous governments for the problems the country is going through. "It is an irresponsible immigration policy and a failed integration that has brought us here," said Kristersson, whose governing coalition won the election after promising to curb growing gang violence. He has since launched a series of initiatives focused on this, such as giving the police greater power and imposing harsher punishments for gun crimes.
Sweden had liberal (open-door) immigration policies for many decades and welcomed more immigrants per capita than any other European nation during the 2015 migration crisis. About 20% of Sweden's 10.5 million people were born abroad.
Police estimate that around 30,000 people in Sweden are directly involved or have links to gang crime. Violence has also spread from large urban areas to smaller towns, where it was previously unheard of. "Criminal conflicts in Sweden are a serious threat to the safety and security of the country," National Police Commissioner Anders Thornberg said in a statement.