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A Gang of Masked Men Rampaged Through Stockholm Threatening to Attack Migrants

Swedish police said several people were arrested after men clad in black balaclavas accosted people in the capital's main train station and central square.
January 30, 2016, 11:00pm

Police in Sweden said several people were arrested on Saturday after a large gang of men clad in black balaclavas and matching black armbands rampaged through the streets of Stockholm on Friday night, accosting people and handing out leaflets that threatened to attack young migrants youths in order "to make a statement."

The incident highlights the growing tensions over immigration in Sweden, a country of 10 million which received 163,000 asylum seekers last year, and comes days after a 22-year old female worker was stabbed to death in a center for unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors in southwestern Sweden.

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Interior Minister Anders Ygeman said the incident on Friday as well as an anti-immigrant demonstration in Stockholm on Saturday, which local media said later resulted in some scuffles with counter-demonstrators, were a worrying development.

Related: Smorgasbord of Hate: The Islamic State Finds Fresh Recruits in Sweden's Angry Young Men

"Racist groups are spreading hate and violence in our streets. This has to be met with force," Ygeman said in a statement.

Video footage of the incident showed dozens of masked men in black shouting and confronting people at a shopping mall.

Stockholm police had ramped up their presence in the city center, reportedly deploying anti-riot units earlier in the evening after they learned that extremists were planning an attack on unaccompanied minors.

Immigration has become an increasingly thorny issue for the small European nation, and tensions are running high. Friday's incident comes just days after a 22-year-old Swedish social worker was stabbed to death in a center for unaccompanied minors in southwest Sweden.

Last year, Sweden received around 163,000 refugees. But now, the minister of migration says, "The system cannot cope."

On Thursday, Ygeman told Swedish media that Sweden was prepared to reject up to 80,000 applications for asylum that were submitted in 2015. Rejected applicants still in the country would be expelled. Earlier this month, Sweden announced plans to tighten its borders.

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"The government now considers that the current situation, with a large number of people entering the country in a relatively short time, poses a serious threat to public order and national security," the government said in a statement.

Related: Confiscations, Deportations, and Vague Promises: Europe Asylum Policy Shifts Again

This stands in stark contrast to the warm welcome that Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven extended in September 2015 to refugees fleeing war and conflict. "My Europe takes in people fleeing from war" Löfven said. "My Europe does not build walls."

Earlier this month, Nordfront attempted to block the entrances to two schools in central Sweden using tape emblazoned with Swedish nazi symbols. One of the schools, Alsalamskolan, serves Muslim youth. The school's headmaster, Hussein al Doubdi shrugged off the incident. "Nordfront is like the Swedish Isis" Doubdi told Swedish news outlets. "It is an organization that wants to get their opinions across through violence and threats."

Last year, over 35,000 unaccompanied minors sought asylum in Sweden, about half were in their late teens. More than 23,000 of those unaccompanied were from Afghanistan.

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