Several days of unrest in Sweden, sparked by a far-right group’s plans to burn copies of the Qur’an, have injured several dozen people.
Protests have turned violent in several cities since Thursday, leaving 26 police officers and 14 civilians injured, police said at a press conference on Monday.
The unrest has been sparked by the leader of the anti-immigration and anti-Islam group Hard Line, the Danish-Swedish politician Rasmus Paludan who is aiming to drum up support ahead of September elections.
Paludan – who intends to stand in the September poll but does not yet have the necessary signatures to secure his candidacy – has gone on a declared “tour” of Sweden, visiting cities and towns with large Muslim populations with the intent of burning copies of the Qur’an during the holy month of Ramadan.
Clashes with police have erupted during protests against the group since Thursday evening, starting in the cities Linköping and Norrköping.
They spread to the city of Malmö, where a school was set alight during a second night of unrest Saturday-Sunday.
“Criminals have profited from the situation to show violence towards society, without any link to the demonstrations,” national police chief Anders Thornberg said at a press conference on Monday.
“There are too few of us. We have grown, but we have not grown at the same pace as the problems at the heart of society, ”he said, asking for more resources for the police.
As protesters burned cars and lobbed rocks at the police in Sunday clashes, officers responded, head of police special forces Jonas Hysing said.
“Some 200 participants were violent and the police had to respond with arms in legitimate self-defense,” he said.
Police had earlier said officers wounded three people after firing warning shots during Sunday’s “riot”.
Eight people were arrested in the city of Norrköping and 18 people were detained in the neighboring city of Linköping, because of the violence.
After the incidents, Iraq’s foreign ministry said it had summoned the Swedish chargé d’affaires in Baghdad on Sunday.
It said the affair could have “serious repercussions” on “relations between Sweden and Muslims in general, both Muslim and Arab countries and Muslim communities in Europe”.
Saudi Arabia’s official news agency said the kingdom has “condemned the agitations of certain extremists in Sweden and their provocations against Muslims”.
In November 2020, Paludan was arrested in France and deported. Five other activists were arrested in Belgium shortly afterwards, accused of wanting to “spread hatred” by burning a Qur’an in Brussels.