Finnish broadcaster: Violent gangs in Sweden run from abroad

Police officers studying weapons confiscated from gangs in Rinkeby, Stockholm.
Police officers studying weapons confiscated from gangs in Rinkeby, Stockholm. Source: SCANPIX/Jonathan NACKSTRAND/AFP

Things soured between two criminal gangs in Sweden this December, both seeking to control drug trafficking in Sundsvall. The leaders of the rival gangs are located abroad, one of them in Turkey, with most gang members second generation immigrants, Yle reports.

The Finnish public broadcaster writes that Sweden has been experiencing problems with gang violence for the past 20 years, which has only picked up momentum in recent years. There have been multiple shootings in the capital Stockholm almost daily since Christmas, Swedish broadcaster SVT reports.

Recent wave of violence centered around "Kurdish Fox" and "the Greek"

Yle points out that Swedish authorities are reluctant to comment on gang violence in the country, while media reports suggest two gangs are currently at odds with one another.

One of the gangs is lead by the "Kurdish Fox" (kurdiska räven) and the other by "the Greek," known also as the "24-Year-Old." Neither of the men are believed to be in Sweden.

The Aftonbladet reports that the Kurdish Fox is 36 years old, hails from Uppsala and is currently believed to be residing in Turkey. Yle writes that the Greek is also abroad, while his exact whereabouts are unknown.

According to the Swedish media, the criminal organization run by the Greek is active in northern Sundsvall where it dominates the local narcotics market. The conflict began when the Kurdish Fox sought to get a foot in the door in the Sundsvall drug business.

The first public act of violence took place in Sundsvall on December 2, when an attempt was made on a man's life, the Swedish police said.

Gang violence leads to growing police workload

Since then, mutual acts of violence have been almost daily, mainly in Stockholm. Swedish daily newspaper Aftonbladet reports there are three other gangs at odds in the Stockholm area, adding that because leaders of the two main rivals are abroad, relatives and those with ties to the other gang's leaders have been targeted.

Because the Swedish authorities have a pretty good idea who might be the next targets, several locations are being guarded, Aftonbladet writes.

The Swedish police said on Friday that because of the scope of the investigation, 190 officers will be brought in from other parts of Sweden, with 21 separate incidents investigated since December 25.

SVT journalist Diamant Salihu told Finnish Yle in an interview that the police cannot stay on top of the violence as only every fifth fatal shooting is prosecuted.

Gang violence under control in Malmö

Yle also points out that while there were reports of gang violence in Malmö as recently as six months ago, the area has been quiet since. Salihu said that international cooperation helped apprehend criminal leaders in the area. However, she added that she fears the "criminal vacuum" in Malmö will soon be occupied by new gangs.

The SVT journalist emphasized that unlike the Italian mafia, for example, Swedish gangs do not sport a high level of organization. At the same time, apprehending the gang leaders is complicated by strained relations between Stockholm and Ankara.

Gangs usually made up of second generation immigrants

Yle points out that many gang members are second generation immigrants who have been born in Sweden.

Because the drug trade is lucrative to say the least, it serves as a great temptation for people in society's periphery who desire a more luxurious lifestyle. Honor and courage are counted among valuable traits. The tide of violence is difficult to stem because the young men in gangs feel every act of violence against their group demands retaliation.

According to Yle, violent offenders have become younger over the years, many of them still minors. Salihu says that Sweden also has networks of foreign crime families, while these mostly focus on money laundering, not violence.

The journalist suggests that Sweden needs an integral solution to combat gang violence, which requires admitting the problem in society. The problem needs to be addressed by parents, relatives, school, social services, mental health experts and the police.

Salihu suggests that applying this approach could help break the cycle of violence, while it would take decades.

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Editor: Allan Aksiim, Marcus Turovski

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