More and more children are contacting criminal gangs in Sweden to offer their services as contract killers, the country’s police chief said Friday, after three people were murdered in 24 hours.
The Scandinavian country has in recent years been in the grip of a bloody conflict between gangs fighting over arms and drug trafficking. That has escalated with internal fighting within a leading gang.
Apartment buildings and homes across the country are frequently rocked by explosions. Shootings, once limited to disadvantaged areas, have become regular occurrences in public places in the usually tranquil, wealthy country.
“We have a situation where children are themselves contacting criminal gangs” offering to commit murders, Anders Thornberg told journalists.
“The criminals are ruthless,” Thornberg said, adding that the gangs also contacted people, often minors, and “furnished them with weapons and gave them the address in which to stage the attack”.
Even the victims were often young.
According to a count by Sweden’s public broadcaster SVT, 12 people were killed in shootings and explosions in September, the deadliest month in the past four years in Sweden.
Senior police official Mats Lindstrom said he had seen many messages from youths contacting gangs for contract killings.
In August 2023, there were 69 people aged under 18 in custody in Sweden, against 14 in the same month two years earlier.
On Thursday, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson vowed to defeat criminal gangs with the help of the military.
“We are going to hunt down the gangs. We are going to defeat the gangs,” Kristersson said in a televised address to the nation Thursday evening.
“An increasing number of children and completely innocent people are affected by this extreme violence,” Kristersson said.
“Sweden has never seen anything like this. No other country in Europe is seeing anything like this.”