— Timon Dias (@TimonDias) 3 augustus 2017
Swedish broadcaster SVT Nyheter published an interview today with an expert of the National Operations Department (NOD) of the Swedish police. The expert wishes to stay anonymous. But what he has to say, is that hand grenades are being used more and more in Sweden.
SVT mentioned the detonation of a grenade in a parking lot in Halmstad last week, but police numbers show that the use of hand grenades is on the rise. In 2014, 8 were used, but none of them actually detonated. In 2015, 10 out of 48 hand grenades used did explode, while in 2016 a total of 52 grenades were used, of which 27 detonated. According to the expert:
“[the police] are serious about it. It is an entirely unacceptable situation for Sweden. When it comes to the use of hand grenades, the pattern in Sweden is also completely different from other countries in Europe.
– Does that mean there are more hand grenades here?
It is not possible to say that there are more hand grenades in Sweden than there are in other European countries. But it is possible to say that they are used in a way that you do not see in other countries. It is extremely distinct.”
At first, attacks using hand grenades have been targeted against cars or homes, that have somehow been linked to criminal activity. But in 2015, police noticed that criminals began to choose targets that had no direct connection with gang conflicts.
“Something we’re looking into now, and that is very worrying, is that starting in 2015 grenades have been thrown at targets like offices of the social services, police stations, and police officers. They began targeting targets linked to the state and civil society.“
With the increased number of hand grenade attacks, comes an increasing number of innocent victims:
“It has happened that a mistake in an address has lead to an attack on innocent families with children, we have found hand grenades hidden at playgrounds. There are examples of children finding hand grenades. It is a wonder more people haven’t been killed.“
The police have found that the problem is not limited to larger cities, but that criminal networks across the entire country have access to hand grenades. An insight confirmed by the Halmstad police, after the latest attack in Sweden using grenades. Peter Hejdström, Head of the local Special Investigations Department:
“Yes. Even if the supply is not as good as in larger cities, it is clear that criminals have access to hand grenades her too.“
The grenades represent an acute danger. All of the grenades seized or detonated in recent years are from former Yugoslavia, models M75 and M52. According to the NOD specialist, even holding one can be life threatening:
“Most grenades are old. They can be stable, but you do not know, because you have no idea how they were stored. The bomb squad has found that they can be unstable.“
The Swedish police have identified five main factors underlying the increased use of hand grenades. Firstly, it is easy to get hold of them. Secondly, they offer a lot of bang for the buck – literally and figuratively, as they are quite cheap. The number of gang conflicts is mentioned as the third reason use of hand grenades took off, leading to the fourth reason: normalisation. What could once be considered an escalation, has become a routine. The fifth reason, according to Swedish police, is the low risk of getting caught. When asked what can be done about the hand grenade hype, the NOD expert says:
“It will be a collaborative effort of different parts of society. Of course, we need to get a better grip on the availability of hand grenades, reduce access. That must be done in cooperation with other countries.“