Deadly school stabbing highlights racial tensions in Sweden

AP News
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Posted: Oct 24, 2015 1:15 PM
Deadly school stabbing highlights racial tensions in Sweden

TROLLHATTAN, Sweden (AP) — The southern industrial city of Trollhattan has become a focal point for underlying racial tensions in Sweden, a nation that has displayed generous attitudes toward refugees.

A 21-year-old local man rampaged through a school in the city Thursday, stabbing two people to death and seriously wounding two others before being fatally shot by police. Authorities called it a racist hate crime, saying he methodically selected dark-skinned victims at Trollhattan's Kronan school, where most students are foreign-born.

The masked attacker, who killed a teacher and a student, has not been named by police.

Many in this nation of 10 million were horrified by the violence but not surprised at its eruption, saying the surge of refugees into Europe has increased anti-immigrant attitudes. Swedish officials estimate some 190,000 asylum-seekers will arrive this year, second only to Germany in Western Europe.

A British teacher at the Montessori school opposite Kronan, Jo-Anne Frampton, said the attack had been "just a matter of time."

Frampton, who has lived in the city for 18 years, said her initial reaction was shock, and then her school was inundated by calls from worried parents.

"We were all worried and afraid," she told The Associated Press on Saturday. "But the attack isn't really surprising. There's a lot of racial tension here, and it's been growing since more and more migrants have been arriving."

As relatives and friends of one of the stabbing victims returned to the school to pay their respects, anti-racist campaigners gathered in the city Saturday to discuss racial issues.

"We get the feeling that these dark forces are back," said Jorge Pereira, a local activist. "But the difference now is that they have attacked children at a school."

Sweden has seen a spate of at least 20 arson attacks in the past seven months on asylum centers or buildings being renovated to house refugees. Early Saturday, another blaze — considered by investigators again to be arson — destroyed a house intended for refugees in Eskiltuna, near Stockholm.

"Once again, we have experienced a hate crime ... Our country is burning. Asylum dwellings are in flames," Svenska Dagbladet, one of Sweden's largest newspapers, said in an editorial. "The hatred against immigrants spreads like wildfire."

Sabri Al Harbiti, chairman of the Muslim Organization of Trollhattan, condemned the fires, calling them "attempted murder."

"People that act like this are not just racists, they are criminals, and they need to be brought to justice," he said.

Trollhattan has a history of far-right extremism. In 1993, the town's mosque was burned down in an arson attack — the first known such attack in Sweden — and hundreds of neo-Nazis convened here in 1996 for a Rudolf Hess march, an event commemorating Adolf Hitler's deputy.

Once Sweden's busiest industrial powerhouse, a center for heavy industries and car production, Trollhattan now has been struggling with unemployment for years. Over one-sixth of its 56,000 people are foreign-born and it has Sweden's highest jobless rate — 14.1 percent in 2014 compared to 8 percent for the nation.

Alaa Zangana, 33, who grew up in the Kronan school's neighborhood, recalled how in the 1990s he was forbidden by his parents to go out on Sundays for fear of being attacked by roving bands of racists.

"It feels like it's almost the same atmosphere (now)," he said.

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Jona Kallgren and David Keyton in Trollhattan contributed to this report. Jan M.Olsen contributed in Copenhagen, Denmark.