Right-wing football hooligans blamed for series of attacks in capital to 'sort out the criminals coming in from North Africa'
Dozens of masked men believed to belong to neo-Nazi gangs carried out a number of assaults on migrants in Stockholm overnight amid rising tension over immigration, Swedish police said Saturday.
Police had increased their presence in the city centre, deploying anti-riot and helicopter units, after learning that right-wing violent groups were planning "aggression on unaccompanied migrant minors" in the city late on Friday.
"I was passing by and saw a masked group dressed in black ... start hitting foreigners. I saw three people molested," the Aftonbladet daily quoted one witness as saying.
Police spokesman Towe Hagg said that by midday police had not received any complaints of assault but one 46-year-old man was arrested after striking a plain-clothed officer. Three others were briefly held for public-order offences, and one more faces charges for carrying a knife.
As many as 100 people, their faces covered, had descended in the early evening on the Sergels Torg square, a popular meeting point for young people, including unaccompanied migrants.
Aftonbladet quoted witnesses as saying the masked group targeted "people of foreign appearance" and handed out leaflets urging the infliction of "deserved punishment on children of the North African street".
Internet site Nordfront, an online forum for the neo-Nazi SMR movement, said its "sources" had revealed that around "100 hooligans" from the AIK and Djurgarden football clubs had gathered Friday in order to "sort out the criminals coming in from North Africa".
Sweden has taken a generous stance on migration, with one of the highest rates of refugees per capita in Europe. However, it has recently said it expects to expel tens of thousands of people over several years as it struggles to cope with the influx.
The number of new migrants entering the country has plunged since Stockholm introduced systematic photo ID checks on travellers on 4 January.
The toughening of policy comes against a backdrop of rising concern over conditions in the country's overcrowded asylum facilities, and officials called for greater security after an employee at a refugee centre for unaccompanied youths was fatally stabbed.