Swedish Immigrants Fear Gunman as Shootings Unresolved
At least 17 immigrants have been victims in the Swedish city of Malmoe in a yearlong shooting spree that has revived memories of similar attacks two decades ago and fanned fears of spiraling anti-immigrant sentiment.
Two women, aged 26 and 34, were shot at through the kitchen window of a ground floor apartment in the neighborhood of Kroksbaeck on Oct. 21, police spokesman Lars-Haakan Lindholm said. A 28-year-old man was shot at a bus stop on Eriksfaelt’s street on Oct. 19, following the shooting of a 47-year-old man at another bus stop on Oct. 10. This weekend, shots were fired at a tailor’s shop and through an apartment window.
“The people who are immigrants care a lot about what is happening and are worried,” said Filiz, a hairdresser in Malmoe who didn’t want her full name to be published. “They double- check that they have locked their doors at night and make sure all curtains have been drawn. It is frightening.”
Between 40 and 50 police are investigating the unexplained shootings in the south-Swedish port city, which has a population of about 300,000. Some of the incidents are connected, Lindholm said and all appear to have targeted non-Swedes. A shooting in October last year, in which a 20-year-old woman was killed and a 21-year-old man was injured in a car near Vaestra Skraevlinge church, may also be related.
The shootings have brought back memories of the “Laserman,” who killed one person and shot at 10 others in Stockholm during six months in 1991 and 1992. All of the victims had dark hair or skin color. John Ausonius, known as the “Laserman” because he used a gun with a laser sight, was sentenced to life in prison in 1994 after the biggest police hunt since the 1986 murder of Prime Minister Olof Palme.
No Reasonable Motives
“This spring we discovered that there were about 15 incidents where there were no reasonable motives, and the two men that were shot at the bus stops strengthened that theory,” Boerje Sjoeholm of the police in Malmoe said at a press conference today. “There are strong indications that this is the same culprit, but we still cannot just focus on that, but the same weapon has been used at a number of these shootings.”
The police in Malmoe are investigating the shootings and tips from the public and have also increased the number of police officers patrolling the streets to try to instill a sense of security and prevent more shootings from taking place.
The incidents in Malmoe since last year have rekindled fears about racism in a country where an anti-immigration party won seats in parliament in last month’s election. There are parallels between the “Laserman” and the Malmoe shootings, said Jerzy Sarnecki, a professor in criminology at Stockholm University.
“There are obvious similarities -- as this time it is also someone shooting at people with an immigrant background,” said Sarnecki. “If it’s the way it seems, that this person is targeting people of an immigrant background, there are also parallels to craziness that may have been triggered by the current political climate, just like with the Laserman.”
During the banking crisis that started in 1990, which lifted unemployment to levels close to 13 percent, the anti- immigration New Democracy party became kingmakers in parliament.
The Sweden Democrats won 5.7 percent of the vote in the general election on Sept. 19 this year, throwing the government of Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt into a minority. That followed Sweden’s deepest recession since World War II last year.
Malmoe police are investigating right-wing groups as one of the possible leads in the attacks and have warned people who don’t look like ethnic Swedes about being out at night. About 40 percent of the city’s population are immigrants, or have two parents born outside of Sweden, Malmoe City estimates.
“There are a lot of people here who are very worried and there is a lot of talk about what is happening,” Shahn, who works at a video store in Malmoe and didn’t want her surname to be published, said by telephone. “This could be some sick youths that are doing the same thing that has happened before.”
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