In the early hours of Thursday, a loud explosion ripped through a quiet residential street of new build family homes just north of the Swedish city of Uppsala.
Soha Saad, 24, was killed in the blast. She lived with her parents, and had recently qualified as a teacher. In footage of the aftermath, her mother can be heard screaming for her daughter, cursing the nation to which they once fled.
Saad was one of three victims of gangland violence in a violent 12-hour spell last week, and one of 12 people to be killed in September – Sweden‘s deadliest month since December 2019.
In the same 12 hours, an 18-year-old rapper was shot dead at the Mälarhöjden sports ground in Fruängen in southern Stockholm in a brazen attack during a football training session, and hours later one man was killed and another was wounded in a shooting in Jordbro, south of the capital.
The trio were the latest people killed after being caught up in ‘terrorist-like’ gangland violence that has gripped Sweden, with stories of assassinations, child soldiers and bomb attacks regularly making the front pages of the country’s newspapers.
In the early hours of Thursday, a loud explosion ripped through a quiet residential street of new build family homes just north of the Swedish city of Uppsala. Soha Saad, 24, was killed in the blast. She lived with her parents, and had recently qualified as a teacher. It is believed that her next-door-neighbours, relative’s of Sweden’s most notorious criminal – were the target
Mikael Tenezos, ‘The Greek’ (left), and Rawa Majid, ‘The Kurdish Fox’ (right), are reportedly high-profile drug pushing gangsters at war with each other in Sweden
Soha Saad (pictured), 24, was killed in the blast that tore through her family home last week
The bomb in the early hours of Thursday morning, set outside Saad’s family home in the dead of night, is thought to have been meant for he neighbours – relatives of a man who is now the most notorious criminal in modern Swedish history.
‘Kurdish Fox’, whose real name is Rawa Majid, became a household name in Sweden last Christmas when the feud between the 37-year-old’s criminal network Foxtrot and the Dalen gang, led by Mikael ‘The Greek’ Tenezos, 25, spread fear in several cities as they fought over shares of the country’s highly lucrative drugs market.
The feud between the two gang leaders soon seemed to cool off, yet several violent crimes connected to Foxtrot involving teenagers and young adults – both as offenders and victims – would occur over the months that followed.
This week, a 16-year-old boy is on trial, accused of executing a 15-year-old at point blank range in a sushi restaurant in the Stockholm suburb of Skogås in January.
Ali Shafaei had escaped Taliban persecution and fled Afghanistan in 2019.
The attack was carried out on the orders of an ally of Majid, according to Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet.
The ally, 20-year-old Ibou Badije – operating under the nickname ‘Louise Gucci’ – was recently sentenced to 18 years in prison for ordering a series of shootings carried out by young teens earlier this year.
The shootings included one in Fruängen, southern Stockholm, on January 20 where the 14-year-old gunmen filmed themselves as they fired an assault rifle thorough a front door, posting the footage online.
At the end of July, 14-year-old friends Mohamed Suleiman and Layth Al-Azzawi were reported missing. They were later found dead in two separate woodland locations – one north and one south of Stockholm.
The Expressen newspaper reports that the teenagers had ‘sold guns belonging to the Foxtrot network run by ‘Kurdish Fox’ Rawa Majid’.
The streets of the Swedish capital have descended into carnage amid a spate of lawlessness, with the three murders being committed within 12 hours of each other last Wednesday
The bomb on Thursday, placed outside Saad’s family home (pictured in the aftermath of the blast) in the dead of night, is believed to have been meant for their neighbours – relatives of a man who is now the most notorious criminal in modern Swedish history
One man was killed and another was wounded in a shooting in Jordbro, south of the Swedish capital, on Wednesday 27. Police officers are seen patrolling the scene
Police officers investigate the scene where a young man was shot at a sports ground in southern Stockholm on Wednesday night, one of three suspected gangland killings that day
Majid was born in Iraqi Kurdistan, but grew up in Uppsala, a university city about an hour’s drive north of the capital Stockholm.
He began his professional career selling ice cream, but soon moved on to violent crime and narcotics before graduating to running a drugs smuggling ring.
In 2019 he left the country with his young family and has since obtained a ‘golden visa’ citizenship in Turkey thanks to £200,000 in property investments, SVT reports.
As Sweden has no extradition deal with Turkey, authorities’ hands are tied.
Also in hiding in Turkey is Rawa Majid’s former second-in-command: 33-year-old convicted drug dealer Ismail Abdo, who would use the aliases ‘Dr Phil’ and ‘The Strawberry’ to help Majid control their criminal empire via encrypted apps.
According to public service broadcaster SVT, the former brothers-in-arms turned on each other earlier this year, when one betrayed the other over a drug deal.
On Thursday, September 7, a 60-year-old woman was shot dead in her home in Uppsala. She was ‘Strawberry’s’ mother.
Retribution for the women’s killing came a few days later when a home in the same city was targeted by a hail of bullets.
The inhabitants had no known gangland connections, however, their neighbour is found to be Rawa Majid’s mother’s law.
As with 24-year old Soha Saad, who at this point still had three weeks to live, they happen to reside next door to the wrong person.
The internal split in the Foxtrot network has made the core persons in the group – people who had previously been relatively safe in their £1.5m villas in Bodrum – more vulnerable, Diamant Salihu, a journalist who has written several books on gang violence in Sweden, tells Dagens Nyheter.
Former friends, who know each others secrets, have become enemies, which is one reason why the violence has escalated to this degree.
A teenager is pictured armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, spraying bullets into the house of the ex-girlfriend of a well-known rapper as a scare tactic in January this year
Gunshots pictured following the attack, apparently designed to scare the ex-girlfriend of a rapper
Twenty years ago, Sweden had one of the lowest gun violence deaths per capita in Europe. Now it is at the top of the league, with 2.5 times the European average.
Between September 10 and September 28, 11 people died and several others were injured, in a total of 32 shootings and bombings, Expressen reports.
They include 13-year-old Milo, 19-year-old Giovanni Farias, 17-year-old Abdullah Janabi and an 18-year-old ‘famous rapper’ who was shot dead in front of dozens of children at a sports field in Fruängen, south of Stockholm.
All had known connections to Foxtrot.
A number of attacks also targeted persons with family ties to either Team ‘Strawberry’ or Team ‘Kurdish Fox’ – or missed the intended victim entirely.
A 25-year-old was killed with bullets reportedly meant for a relative of Rawa Majid, and a 70-year-old blind man was shot dead at the bar of his favourite pub.
The elderly grandparents of a Majid-ally were thankfully unharmed when someone fired a weapon through their window.
There was also, of course, Soha Saad.
‘It seems that several of the perpetrators of the wave of violence are not equipped for the type of mission that they have taken on,’ Expressen’s crime correspondent Kim Malmgren told the paper’s readers last week.
‘No wonder considering how many of them are young boys – 13, 14, 15 years old – whose radicalisation into the criminal environment has been at record speed.
‘They have very little weapons skills, no bombing skills. As several crimes testify, some of the perpetrators do not seem to be great map readers either,’ he wrote.
While the gang leaders in their late 20s and 30s are enjoying the fruits of their illegal labours hidden away in countries like Turkey, Spain, Mexico and even the UK, their soldiers in Sweden are growing increasingly younger.
Convicted criminals under 18 are sent to care homes or young offenders institutions and those under 21 have their age taken into consideration, meaning significantly shorter sentences.
This has birthed the underworld expression ‘take a four to become a 100-man’ – meaning that by committing a serious offense on behalf of an older gang leader (and do less time in prison than an adult career criminal) they gain status and notoriety.
Police are seen outside of Soha Saad’s home after an explosion tore through it early Thursday
Footage of the bomb’s aftermath shows the young woman’s building ripped apart, the smashed windows hanging haphazardly down the front of her home in a scene that witnesses have likened to a war zone
While now subjected to what police commissioner Anders Thornberg calls ‘unprecedented terrorist-like violence’, the current state of the nation has been several years in the making, experts say.
The vast majority of both victims and perpetrators are of migrant background, some recent arrivals but a majority born and raised in Sweden – albeit to migrant parents.
These children are more likely to live in de-prioritised poor areas and see crime as a highway to a life of money, power and status far beyond what they could achieve on the right side of the law.
During a press conference on Friday, police commissioner Thornberg warned that ‘there are children contacting these gangs to become killers’.
Sweden’s government said on the same day it would clear the way for the military to provide greater assistance to the police in combating the crime wave.
Swedish law currently prohibits the military helping the police in any situation where the use of force could be necessary except in the case of terrorist attacks or war.
But following a meeting with the heads of the police and armed forces, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said the two would now have an official mandate to explore ways to cooperate, following the deaths of the 12 people in September alone.
‘The wave of violence is… unprecedented in Sweden, but it is also unprecedented in Europe, no other country has a situation like the one we have,’ he told reporters.
‘Political naivety and cluelessness have brought us to this point. Irresponsible immigration policy and failed integration have brought us to this point.
‘Exclusion and parallel societies feed the criminal gangs, providing space for them to ruthlessly recruit children and train future killers. Swedish legislation is not designed for gang wars and child soldiers. But we are now changing that,’ he vowed.
This week, a 16-year-old boy is on trial, accused of executing a 15-year-old Ali Shafaei at point blank range in a sushi restaurant in the Stockholm suburb of Skogås in January
Ali Shafaei had escaped Taliban persecution and fled Afghanistan in 2019
Kristersson said the government had received offers of help from across the Nordic region, adding that his counterparts in Norway, Finland and Denmark did not want ‘Swedish gang crime to get a foothold’ in their countries.
The idea of ‘parallel societies’ has been talked about in Sweden before in regards to the link between criminal gangs and migrant communities.
In April 2022, then-Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said Islamism on one hand and right-wing extremism on the other had been allowed to fester.
‘Segregation has been allowed to go so far that we have parallel societies in Sweden,’ the Social Democrat prime minister said at the time.
‘We live in the same country but in completely different realities. We will have to reassess our previous truths and make tough decisions.’
She said while immigration to Sweden had been ‘substantial’, integration had been poor. ‘Society has been too weak, resources for the police and social services have been too weak.’
In addition to announcing that the police would get assistance from the military, Kristersson also announced a series of other measures to support officers.
Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said the Police and Military would now have an official mandate to explore ways to cooperate, following the deaths of the 12 people in September alone
These include stop-and-search zones, anonymous witnesses, and the right to extradite known gang members who are foreign nationals – even if they have not been found guilty of a crime.
However, several of these are a long way away from being implemented, such as ‘youth prisons’ for 15-to-17-year-olds which won’t become a reality until 2026.
‘In these gangs, the rule is blood for blood. I am afraid it will take many more deaths, including many outsiders, before the tide turns,’ says Diamant Salihu.
Sixty two people were shot dead in Sweden – home to 10.4 million people – last year and police figures show 42 deaths so far this year.