MALMO, Sweden — Sweden reported a 170 percent increase in grenade attacks during 2016, as criminal gangs are able to import them legally.
It is illegal to smuggle weapons into Sweden, but items classified as explosives are fair game. Criminal gangs are taking full advantage while politicians struggle to figure out how to change the law to reflect current trends.
The number of attacks may seem relatively low, with an increase from 10 detonations in 2015 to 27 last year, according a police report released Monday. Police still warn that the trend stands out among “comparable countries” without an ongoing war.
The report says grenades have become the weapon of choice for criminal gangs for their availability, cheap price and low risk of prosecution.
“It’s a very strange situation,” Jonas Karlsson, lawyer at the Swedish Department of Customs, told Svenska Dagbladet after proposing a reclassification of grenades in 2015. “We need to cover up this legal loophole.”
Politicians have remained passive, in respect to changing the legislation, for years. It wasn’t until an 8-year-old boy was killed in August that the debate started to take off.
“We’ve had a disturbingly high usage of hand grenades,” Interior Minister Anders Ygeman said after the boy’s death. “The government has already imposed tougher penalties and now we’re moving on to give the customs department better resources to stop them.”
A majority of the grenades originate from former Yugoslavian countries, where a large arsenal was left behind after the war in the 1990s. Jihadis have been able to obtain M70 assault rifles from the war to carry out attacks across Europe, while M75 grenades often end up in the city of Malmo in southern Sweden.
The city has recorded at least 26 grenade detonations since 2014 and they can be purchased for less than $140 on the black market with same day delivery.
“It’s just pure luck that so few have been hurt considering the explosiveness in a hand grenade,” Anette Bergstrand, an analyst with the Malmo police told local newspaper Sydsvenskan.