STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Two men were killed and many others injured in a suspected gang-related shooting in a restaurant in the western Swedish city of Gothenburg, police said on Thursday, in an incident that has sparked fears of a further escalation in gangland violence.
Lethal showdowns between gangs have become more common in Sweden after bikers such as Hells Angels established a presence in the Nordic country in the 1990s and as gangs attract young men in marginalized suburbs of the main cities.
At least 10 people were shot, two of them fatally, when two or more men entered the restaurant late on Wednesday with automatic weapons. One of the injured has life-threatening wounds and the perpetrators are still at large, police said.
"We believe the backdrop to this is a conflict between criminal gangs," County Police Chief Commissioner Klas Friberg told Reuters.
"It's unprecedented. We had not seen this kind of indiscriminate violence, in such a small place, with such heavy weapons."
Sweden is one of the world's safest countries. But on the outskirts of Gothenburg, Sweden's second-biggest city, gang- related shootings increased sharply in 2013 and 2014. There were more than 50 shootings in 2014, of which four were deadly.
After months of relative calm amid intensified police activity, Wednesday's shooting may signal the struggle for power over organized crime may be flaring up again in the region.
Local paper Goteborgsposten reported that one of those killed on Wednesday was a prominent local gang member, and Friberg said he now saw a risk of acts of revenge and a descending spiral of gang violence.
"This is one of the most serious showdowns in a public space ever in Sweden, in that so many were hit," said Stockholm police criminologist Mikael Rying.
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said he would visit Gothenburg on Friday after attending a European Union summit in Brussels, local news agency TT reported.
There has also been a rise in gang-related shootings in Stockholm and Sweden's third biggest city Malmo as well as in smaller towns, said Daniel Vesterhav, an analyst at the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention.
A few years ago, Malmo was hit by a wave of deadly shootings with links to organized crime. Earlier this month three people were shot dead in a suspected gang-related shooting to the north of Gothenburg.
Editing by Gareth Jones