Richard Orange, The Telegraph, September 11, 2021
A 16-year-old girl has been charged in Sweden for buying 12kg of explosives to blow up a corner shop, in one of the tit-for-tat gang wars that have given the country one of the highest rates of deadly shootings in Europe.
The girl has been charged alongside two men, 21 and 23, for planning and carrying out the explosion attack in the city of Malmo earlier this year.
Prosecutors told the Telegraph that her involvement showed how gangs in the country use those under the age of 18, who if convicted of serious crime, typically spend only short stints in care institutions.
Tomas Olvmyr said he believed the girl had not only bought the explosives, but also set them off.
“It is becoming more and more common that young people are used in serious crimes,” he said.
A date for the trial has not yet been set and none of the three accused has admitted guilt.
Sweden’s gun violence rate soars
An international comparison published by the Swedish Council of Crime Prevention in May found that Sweden was the only country in Europe where fatal shootings have risen significantly since 2000.
The country has jumped from having one of the lowest rates of gun violence to one of the highest, with about four deaths per million inhabitants per year from shootings, compared to a European average of 1.6.
The majority of the perpetrators of the gang shootings and bomb attacks in Sweden are young men with immigrant backgrounds, making violent crime a big political issue in Sweden. Anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats, and other right-of-centre parties, have seized on attacks, blaming them more on cultural factors.
Justice Minister Morgan Johansson, from the Social Democrats, however, wrote on Facebook that he believed that “gaps in the welfare system and class differences [were] important explanations.”
Malmö, which suffered an alarming spate of shootings and explosions five years ago, had seen an improvement, with the number of attacks falling from 51 in 2017 to 14 in 2020.
On May 6 however, there were three bomb attacks on corner shops in the city within the space of a few hours, leading Manne Gerell, a criminologist at the local Malmö University, to warn of a coming wave of tit-for-tat bombing.
“Violence breeds violence, and in these types of criminal network environments, your respect, your brand, depends on you being dangerous,” he told the local Sydsvenskan newspaper. “If someone does something to you, you need to respond with violence.”
How the case was built
Mr Olvmyr sees the attack for which the three have been charged as “most probably a revenge bombing” for one of the three earlier attacks.
“These loose collections of gangster friends tend to have their favourite store where they hang out, so if you want to mark against a rival gang, you put a bomb outside their store.”
Although the owners of the shops were not involved, a witness told police that one of the accused had visited the owner of one of the shops hit on May 6th to tell him revenge had been enacted.
According to the indictment, the May 23 explosion did more than £4,000 worth of damage to the shop, damaged a nearby car, and left the shop’s owner suffering pain and impaired hearing.
The case against the three suspects has been built from tracking the movement of their phones, from surveillance camera footage, and from a tap the police had had running on one of the men’s phones.
After the 16-year-old girl and the 21-year-old old travelled to the city of Helsingborg to pick up the dynamite used in the attack and handed it over to the 23-year-old, he shot videos of it on his mobile phone.
Transcripts of the phone calls between the 16-year-old and the older man show how she hesitated about taking the package into her flat because her father was home and might ask what it was.
Transcripts also show the sense of segregation felt by the three suspects, who all have Somali backgrounds, with the two describing one of their contacts as “the whitey”, and the 23-year-old in one call telling the 16-year-old to “pick up the phone, you disgusting Somali”.