As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, here’s an update from our Swedish correspondent Svenne Tvaerskaegg with more information of the coordinated mass car-burnings that took place across Sweden the night before last.
Swedish mass arson attacks — An Islamic State connection?
by Svenne Tvaerskaegg
Swedish security services have been studying CCTV footage as well as videos posted on YouTube and other forums that show the mass arson attacks against a number of Swedish towns and cities during the night of August 13. A number of suspects have been identified, and two 20-year-olds have already been detained. As further suspects are identified, police raids in the immigrant ghettos may be expected.
An unsettling aspect of the attacks was their military-style precision and co-ordination, indicating a degree of sophistication beyond the scope of the usual chaotic ghetto riots and car-burnings that have become a feature of modern Sweden. The Swedish security police, Säpo, believe there are large numbers of potentially violent Islamic extremists in the country, many of them having fought with the Islamic State in the Middle East. According to a Säpo spokesman there were an estimated 200 Islamic extremists in Sweden in 2010, but after the last few years’ massive immigration from Middle Eastern war zones their numbers are now estimated to be “in their thousands.” According to the spokesman this situation is “the new normal” for Sweden and the presence of returned Islamic State fighters as well as rapidly growing Islamic extremism in the ghettos represent “an historic challenge.”
An alternative for the August 13 attacks that cannot be ruled out is that Islamic State operatives may have been involved in their planning and execution. Police believe a number of the perpetrators are no longer in Sweden and may be making their way back to the Middle East. An identified suspect who had already fled Sweden has been arrested while trying to enter Turkey. He will be extradited back to Sweden to face charges as soon as this can be arranged with the Turkish authorities.
The Swedish government has been put in an extremely difficult position by the arson attacks. The general election is less than one month away, and the main ruling party, the Social Democrats, are rapidly dropping in the polls as the nationalist and anti-immigration Sweden Democrats are rapidly rising. It was already likely the Sweden Democrats would emerge as the largest party in the Swedish parliament, and the arson attacks will only increase this probability. They have brought a new dimension to the pre-election situation and presented Prime Minister Stefan Löfven with an impossible dilemma. He has to be seen as strong and taking effective measures against the arsonists, but any large-scale police action in the ghettos will inevitably trigger riots on a scale not seen since the Stockholm ghetto riots of 2013. This would make a very bad situation even worse as the world’s eyes, and Swedish voters’ eyes, are on television images of pitched battles and burning cities. This is something Mr. Löfven definitely does not want, but may have to face up to.
It is going to be a very interesting run-up to the election in Sweden.
For previous essays by Svenne Tvaerskaegg, see the Svenne Tvaerskaegg Archives.