Racist shooting suspect held by Malmo police

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The Independent Online

Swedish police hunting a lone gunman who has been stalking the southern city of Malmo for more than a year and terrorising its immigrant community with a series of shootings have arrested a 38-year-old suspect.

Police refused to name the man who was taken into custody on Saturday night on suspicion of murder and attempted murder. He is believed to be responsible for 15 unsolved shootings in Malmo in which one person was killed and eight wounded.

"We became interested in this man because of tip-offs we received from the public," Commissioner Borje Sjoholm, Sweden's chief police spokesman, said yesterday. "We called him at his home and asked him to step outside. He did not resist arrest."

Mr Sjoholm said two firearms were found at the man's home.

The series of attacks is believed to have started in October last year when a 20-year-old woman, Trez West Persson, was shot dead while sitting in her parked car with her immigrant boyfriend. Police assumed the shooting was a gangland killing and only later concluded it was racially motivated.

Since then there have been 14 more attacks on immigrants in Malmo, which contains Sweden's largest foreign population. Individuals have been shot at through the windows of a gym, at bus stops and in their cars. No one has admitted responsibility.

Targets have included a mosque and a police station. In one incident a group of African men were shot at outside a swimming pool. In the latest, at the end of last month, the gunman fled on a bicycle after headbutting his target, an Iranian-born hairdresser..

The shootings have been linked to the rise of the country's xenophobic Sweden Democrats, a right-wing political party which entered parliament for the first time in September's general election and deprived theruling centre-right coalition of its absolute majority.

The party ran a virulently anti-foreigner campaign using the slogan "Keep Sweden Swedish". Its leaders insist that integration does not work.

The party's sudden gains shocked many Swedes who pride themselves on a tradition of racial tolerance.

The Sweden Democrats offered a reward to anyone who helped police to track down the gunman.

Until yesterday's arrest the hunt for the gunman appeared fruitless. A fortnight ago Malmo's gangland claimed that it was helping police to track down the killer. A breakaway group from one of the city's three underworld gangs told a newspaper it was patrolling one Malmo's largest housing estates, home to a 30,000-strong immigrant community. A gang spokesman claimed to know the area better than the police.

The Swedish media have compared the Malmo shootings to a similar case in Stockholm in the early 1990s. John Ausonius was nicknamed the "laser man" because of the laser gun sight mounted on his rifle. He evaded capture for more than a year but was eventually caught and convicted of one murder and nine attempted murders, mostly on immigrants. He is serving a life sentence in a high-security prison.