Jake Wallis Simons, Daily Mail, October 12, 2020
Migrant mafia gangs are terrorising Sweden’s streets with a surge of bombings and murders, forcing police chiefs in one of Europe’s most liberal countries to admit they are losing their grip on law and order.
Just five years after the country welcomed refugees with open arms, criminal clans from the Middle East, north Africa and the Balkans are behind soaring crime rates in their once peaceful cities, police say, with 257 bombings and more than 300 shootings last year.
In one extraordinary incident in August, Gothenburg’s most notorious crime family, the Ali Khan gang, set up roadblocks in the northeast of the city, shining torches into cars to hunt for members of a rival mob.
Police broke up the checkpoints and made 20 arrests. But in a move that was seen as symbolic of Sweden’s ‘soft touch’, the suspects were released because prosecutors decided they hadn’t broken the law.
In an exclusive interview, Erik Nord, Gothenburg’s chief of police, told MailOnline: ‘These criminal clans have a completely different culture that makes them very difficult to tackle with normal police methods.
‘We need more police and our courts and prisons need to be reinforced to deal with this situation urgently. Otherwise we will turn into a gangsters’ paradise.’
The country’s Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven, has consistently refused to admit that migrants are behind the increasing violence. But as the situation spirals out of control, police officers are breaking their silence.
‘Two years ago, if people linked immigration to crime as I am now, they would be accused of being racist,’ Mr Nord said. ‘But the paradigm is shifting.’
Last month, the country’s deputy chief of police, Mats Löftving, identified 40 mafia clans who had come to Sweden ‘solely for the purpose of organising and systemising crime’.
His comments came after the roadblock incident, which was part of a feud sparked when members of a group called the Backa Gang shot at a member of the notorious Ali Khan group.
The Ali Khan family has been dubbed a mafia organisation by Swedish police and media alike, though its members insist that the convictions of some do not represent the whole.
Members of the family have been reported to the authorities more than 200 times in the last two years, but in many of the cases the informants mysteriously withdraw their complaints.
In sworn testimony given at court, the local police chief Ulf Merlander said: ‘[The Ali Khans] have been part of a lot of criminal activities over the years. They’ve affected the local community pretty negatively for a long time.
‘When I look at this family, roughly 60 out of the 120 individuals are over the age of 15. About 40 of them are male, and over 30 have criminal records.’
He added: ‘The types of crime that the Ali Khans are known for are murder, extortion, serious violations of a woman’s integrity, physical abuse, unlawful threats, drug crimes and unlawful possession of weapons.’
According to police sources, the Backa Gang thug did not know that he was shooting at an Ali Khan member. In the tit-for-tat battle that followed, a Backa hoodlum was gunned down in a drive-by shooting.
Poised for further escalation, the Ali Khans set up the checkpoints to defend themselves, stopping all cars entering their patch to check for rival mobsters.
The Ali Khan network, described by Swedish police officers and media as one of the country’s most feared and violent gangs, is typical of mafia rings all over the country. Part of a larger clan that is made up of seven related families, it has branches in Denmark, Germany and Lebanon. The Ali Khans are seen as the clan’s enforcers.
Hashem Ali Khan, 63, is believed to be the head of the family. He arrived in Sweden with a bullet in his back in 1984 as a refugee from Lebanon’s civil war, and set up home in a quiet suburban cul-de-sac in Angered, northeast Gothenburg, in what would become the heart of his family’s territory.
In this middle class, semi-detached modern home, the frail pensioner with a large white beard receives regular visits from senior relatives. He officiates every Friday at the nearby al Salam mosque, which offers courses in martial arts as well as prayer and study sessions.
Although the pensioner was arrested twice in 2019 – once in connection with a machine gun found in a search – he has never been convicted of a crime. He avoided gun charges last year when his underage teenage grandson arrived at the police station claiming that the illegal weapon belonged to him.
But five of his seven children and three of their spouses have been convicted of criminal offences, including murder, drugs crimes, threatening police, serious assault and obstruction of justice.
His middle son Ibrahim, 38, was caught smuggling teargas and bladed knuckle-dusters into the city last year, and his younger son Abdelbaset, 33, shot dead an 18-year-old Chilean in a revenge attack.
Nine of the imam’s 34 grandchildren have also been found guilty of crimes. Khalil, 28, for instance, has committed assault, attempted robbery, obstruction of justice, theft and drug offences, while his brother Hashem, 22, has served two prison sentences for drug crimes, serious assault and obstruction of justice.
The Ali Khans and roadblocks in Gothenburg are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to the 40 clans there are hundreds of smaller gangs, and conflicts between rivals mean that only one month of the last three years has passed without a mob-related killing in Sweden. There are now 10 times as many killings as there are in Germany.
This summer, a 12-year-old girl was shot dead by a stray bullet near Stockholm, while in Gothenburg a teacher was kidnapped and beaten after he reported two armed men outside his school. An eight-year old British boy was killed in a grenade attack in the same city while visiting family in 2016.
Last month, foreign exchange students at Dalarna University in Borlänge, central Sweden, pleaded to be moved from their digs in an immigrant-dominated neighbourhood after a spate of shootings, robberies, stabbings, rapes and school arson attacks.
They had been housed in the Tjärna Ängar area, which has soaring rates of violent crime and is home to high numbers of migrants from troubled countries like Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
In a letter to university leaders sent on behalf of the international student union, Indian student Mufassireen Ahmed wrote: ‘Students are disturbed with the thought that they are experiencing the glimpse of war countries at their accommodation, which has led to widespread depression.’
Her friends had been repeatedly robbed and one had been stabbed after refusing to allow unknown men access to university property, she wrote.
Several had seen knife attacks and heard gun shots while in their rooms studying, causing some to abandon their studies and leave Sweden.
‘The general opinion within students is that they do not feel like they are living in Sweden, they do not hear the language or get to experience the culture and traditions, [and they] feel like they are living in a segregated neighbourhood,’ she wrote.
There has also been a spate of ‘humiliation robberies’, in which young victims are mugged, degraded and raped, mainly by migrant youths.
Traditional crime rings such as the Hell’s Angels, which controlled organised crime in the country for decades, are running scared.
Sweden, long seen as the most open in the world, began opening its doors to asylum seekers in the Eighties and took in one of the highest numbers in Europe during the migration surge of 2015.
The Ali Khans and other established clans arrived in Sweden in the first wave of mass migration, 30 years ago. The family originated in Palestine and Mardin, in southeast Turkey, but spread to Lebanon in the last century and from there to northern Europe.
More recent arrivals are adapting to the gang culture. Syrian-born Ouday Alwaked, for example, joined the Ali Khan family as a foot-soldier. According to a police source, he served Fadi Ali Khan loyally until he was sent to prison for two years after stabbing a rival in the neck in a targeted attack.
Police intelligence chiefs have told MailOnline of their concerns that Syrians and other new migrants are starting to form their own crime rings that will one day challenge the likes of the Ali Khans.
According to Mr Nord, these crime rings are drawn to the country by state handouts. ‘Why have they based themselves in Sweden? It’s obvious,’ he said.
‘Our generous welfare system and trusting society can be exploited by the criminal networks. Half of the disabled benefit we pay out is fraudulently taken by the gangs. Sometimes they get divorced so that the Government will give them another flat, then move back in with their ex-wives and rent it out.
‘When the clan system found in the Middle East, North Africa and the Balkans was transferred into Sweden, with our high level of social trust, it mutated into organised crime.
‘We see the migrants leaving the country for a few months, then coming back in a wheelchair to claim disability benefit. This is the beginning of the exploitation.
‘It is terrible because police resources are being used to address the problem that we have created ourselves.’
Inspector Ulf Böstrom, head of Gothenburg’s integration unit, who has been a police officer for 42 years, told MailOnline that the withdrawal of community police patrols in the Eighties created a vacuum that was filled with migrant gangs.
‘When the cat is gone, the rats dance on the table,’ he said. ‘In Sweden, the cat has been gone for 30 years. With no police on the beat, there was no way of showing our legal boundaries to new arrivals.
‘The clans have a code of silence. They don’t trust Sweden’s authorities and they won’t speak to us. We have 184 nationalities in Gothenburg alone. The clans view white Swedes as just another clan that happens to be in control of the country’s institutions.
‘We had a plan for integration that obviously failed. Fixing it will be very difficult. A generation of young men has been born into crime families on Swedish soil, and they see themselves as untouchable.’
The veteran police officer added: ‘It is our own fault but the politicians won’t admit it. We can’t solve it with surveillance or military-style policing. If police are not patrolling the streets, how can we integrate these parallel societies?’
Johanna Bäckström Lerneby, author of The Family, a book about the Ali Khans, said: ‘Normal Swedes trust the State to look after them and keep them safe. But the clans trust only their families.
‘For them, family is more important than life and death. The State is not important. They don’t speak to police. They are living in a different world.’
So powerful have the crime rings become, she added, that they even have lawyers in their pockets.
Earlier this year, solicitor Edip Samuelsson was penalised after he was found to be helping two gang members coordinate their stories while in custody facing drug charges.
Unlike other gangs, the clans are bonded by blood and run on a strict family hierarchy. The war with the Backa Gang ended when older members of the Ali Khan group set up a peace summit in the five-star Clarion Post hotel in central Gothenburg, less than 500 yards away from the city’s main police station.
The Backa Gang agreed to pay substantial reparations to avoid further violence, police sources have claimed.
The only significant action taken by the Swedish authorities was to take one of Khan’s teenage grandsons, who was present at the brazen summit, into care.
‘You might think it was good for the two sides to make peace, but it just made police more worried,’ Inspector Böstrom said. ‘It means that they are now working together under the radar and it is impossible to know what they are doing.’