Recent shootings across the Nordic country have sharpened voter focus on law and order ahead of polling day on September 11.

ESKILSTUNA, Sweden — In mid-August, a woman shopping in a mall in the southern Swedish city of Malmö was accidentally shot by a gunman police believe was targeting a rival gang member. 

Just days later, a woman and small child were hit by stray bullets during a shootout — likely between rival gangs — near a playground in the central town of Eskilstuna. 

For Swedish lawmakers and voters, these were morbidly familiar headlines, with 2022 on course to be the deadliest in a series of violent years for the country of 10 million. 

Four days after the shooting, the Eskilstuna park was all but deserted, despite late summer sunshine. 

A mother let her 6-year-old son bounce on a small trampoline, but nervously called him back when he strayed more than a few meters away. After a couple of minutes, she decided to leave. 

“We are terrified to be here,” said the woman, a 33-year-old who didn’t want to give her name because she feared reprisals for criticizing local criminals. “This isn’t the first time there has been a shooting in this area.”

Escalating violence 

The playground is in the suburb of Årby, the base of a local narcotics-dealing gang, which local authorities say is locked in a deadly rivalry with a group from Skiftinge, another suburb a couple of kilometers away. 

Initially a clash over control of drug markets, officials say the rivalry has intensified as slights and attacks by one side have been met in kind by the other in an escalating spiral of violence.

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