A burned-out van in Rinkeby. Photo: Fredrik Persson / SCANPIX

Suburb Hit By "Riots"

Flames were once again to be seen in a Swedish suburb Tuesday night, as buildings and cars in the Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby were torched by youths in the area.

The disturbances started Monday night when a group of youths were refused entry to a party celebrating the end of the school year. They then began to pull up street cobblestones and slabs of pavement and throw them at police. Then they started setting light to parked cars, and even a local bank ended up being set on fire. Firemen who came to put out the fires were then also set upon by the gang of up to 60 youths, according to news agency TT.

Disturbances started again Tuesday as night fell, and arsonists torched motorbikes and cars, as well as trying to light the local police station. They then moved on to a high school in the area, razing it to the ground. Firefighters were unable to get close enough to the school to fight the fire due to the stone-throwing youths.

Local police chief Mats Brännlund called the events "riots", and local residents say they are scared of leaving their houses at night.

The head of the Rinkeby Academy, the school that got burned down, Stavros Louca, says he's shocked at what has happened.

"It's a mix of emotions," he says. "It's horrific to see dreams destroyed. Two years of dreams. This should be the pride of Rinkeby, instead it's what they decided to burn down. I don't understand it. Everyone here was proud of the academy. Just last Sunday we got a national flag handed to us by the King. But we'll be back, it's not the buildings that are important, but the people behind the project. We're still here", he said.

News agency TT reports that local politicians have already contacted the head of the Rinkeby Academy, Stavros Louca, telling him the school will be rebuilt.

Rinkeby is a suburb of Stockholm with high levels of unemployment and immigration. Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who has himself lived close to the area, says the disturbances are a signal of a society that isn't looking after all its citizens. He has called on local parents, volunteer groups and other adults to get out on the streets and to talk with the young people, warning that the consequences could otherwise have a large impact on the area. Three government ministers visited the suburb Wednesday.

The latest disturbances are another in what has almost become a tradition of unrest in Sweden's suburbs as schools close for the summer. Suburbs of the cities of Malmö and Uppsala faced similar problems last summer, with burnt-out cars littering the streets.

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