Up to 80 vehicles were set afire by masked gangs of young men across four cities in Sweden, in what police are saying could be a co-ordinated attack. No injuries have been reported even as the cars were charred.
CCTV footage shows multiple cars burning across car parks in front of a public hospital and a shopping mall. 'While most fires started within a short period of time, it can not be excluded that there is a connection between the fires, the case will be investigated,' police said.
The attacks happened after 9pm local time in the cities of Stockholm, Gothenburg, Falkenberg and Trollhattan. Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said: "It looks like very coordinated, almost like a military operation."
Speaking to Swedish Radio, Prime Minister Lofven addressed the attackers, simply asking: "What the hell are you doing?"
The masked young people broke car windows before pouring flammable liquids inside, Swedish media said. Around 80 vehicles had been vandalised in total, Swedish television reported, with three caravans and a truck also targeted. The numbers vary but witnesses say close to 40 youths were also seen throwing stones at police officers.
Dozens of vehicles have been set on fire in western Sweden in what appears to be a series of coordinated arson attacks; people dressed in all black fled the scenes pic.twitter.com/jkpB0Otzd7
— BNO News (@BNONews) August 13, 2018
The BBC notes that there seems to be no visible motive for the widespread arson, but the action echoes the damage done during riots in Stockholm over several nights in May 2013.
The 2013 riots sparked a debate about immigration, unemployment and the widening gap between rich and poor in Sweden.
This violence comes just three weeks before Swedish voters go to the polls in a general election. The prime minister’s party, the Social Democrats, is facing the worst poll numbers in its history, to the benefit of anti-immigration party the Sweden Democrats.