Outcry in Sweden after 12-year-old-girl killed by stray bullet

By Jon Henley

Swedish officials have promised more police and tougher punishments amid public outrage after a 12-year-old girl was killed by a stray bullet in an apparent gangland shooting at a petrol station car park south of Stockholm.

“I am aware no words are enough for those who have lost a child in this awful way, but I still want to we share your grief in these difficult times,” the home affairs minister, Mikael Damberg, told the national news agency TT.

The justice minister, Morgan Johansson, said he was “dismayed and shocked” and pledged government action to ensure “more police and harsher sentences”, while the opposition MP Johan Forssell urged a radical a rethink “to make Sweden safer”.

Expressen newspaper reported that the unnamed girl was shot in the car park of the Shell station in the early hours of Sunday, adding that the bullet was fired from a car and intended for two men with connections to a criminal gang.

School friends and family members placed flowers and candles at the scene on Monday. “She always had energy and wanted the best for everyone,” one classmate, Avan, 13, told the newspaper. “She had dreams. She deserves all the best.”

Local teenagers often came to the car park in Botkyrka, about 12 miles south-west of the Swedish capital, which is also home to a McDonald’s and a Pizza Hut, the mother of another school friend told the Aftonbladet newspaper.

“She was probably just here. She liked to walk in the evening,” Ruba al-Bitar, 33, told the paper. “I don’t know how to handle this. What happened to her could just as easily have happened to my children. We felt safe, but now there is no safety.”

Police have launched a preliminary investigation and are reportedly seeking information about a white car seen at the time of the killing. Anders Thornberg, the national police chief, said investigators would “do everything in our power to bring the people behind this terrible act to justice”.

Thornberg said police could gather evidence but also depended on “those who know anything about the incident coming forward”. Combating violence in society would require “schools, social services, police and citizens working together”, he said.

Police in Sweden have recently been given added surveillance powers and sentences for drugs and weapons-related crimes have been toughened, but the country has so far been unable to stem a wave of bombings and shootings.

Twenty people have been killed in 163 shootings in the first six months of 2020, according to police figures. In 2019, there were 42 deaths in 334 reported shootings.