By JAN M. OLSEN
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Sweden’s government suspects that actors from abroad incited violent riots in several Swedish cities last week, according to the country’s justice minister.
Crowds threw rocks and burned cars and trash cans after a Danish far-right provocateur announced plans to hold meetings in Sweden. Rasmus Paludan has burned copies of the Quran at events in Denmark where he also bashes Islam, and the news he wanted to do the same in Sweden sparked anger.
Paludan, who holds dual Danish-Swedish citizenship, “seems for some reason to hate Sweden and try to harm Sweden. I do not understand why” Justice Minister Morgan Johansson said.
In an interview with Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet published Wednesday, Johansson referred to online claims that surfaced earlier this year about Swedish social service agencies allegedly kidnapping Muslim children.
“There are many signs that they have been running here as well, campaigning and supporting this in various ways,” the minister said.
The Foreign Ministry in Stockholm posted a Twitter thread in February devoted to what it termed “a disinformation campaign.” A Swedish agency established to counter misinformation said the kidnapping allegations could be traced to an Arabic-language site whose creator expressed support for the Islamic State group.
“We see how the image of Sweden is set by some of these actors in the Middle East,” Aftonbladet quoted Johansson as saying. “It is also addressed by a couple of governments, in Iraq and in Iran.”
After word of Paludan’s planned stunt reached Iran and the United Arab Emirates, the governments in Tehran and Dubai summoned Swedish diplomats to protest.
A total of 26 police officers and 14 other individuals — protesters or other people — were injured in the riots, and 20 police vehicles destroyed or damaged, officials have said.
The latest violence broke out Sunday night in Malmo, Sweden’s third-largest city, as an angry crowd of mainly young people set fire to tires, debris and garbage cans in an neighborhood known for high crime.
Unrest and violent clashes were reported in several other Swedish cities. Three people were hurt in Norrkoping on Sunday as they were hit by ricochets when police fired warning shots.
Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson is set to visit Norrkoping and Linkoping, another city that saw rioting, on Wednesday.
National police officials said Monday that they suspected some of the rioters were linked to criminal gangs that intentionally target police.