The streets are deserted after dark in a sleepy Swedish town which is a now no-go zone for women after eight sex attacks in three weeks.
Women have been warned by police not to walk alone at night after the once peaceful town of Östersund was shaken to its core by a string of vicious attacks on females and even children by groups of young men of ‘foreign origin’.
First, two 10-year-old girls were groped at a bus stop by a gang of men who threatened to rape them.
The following day, a woman told police she was punched in the face, splitting her eyebrow, by a man who threatened to kill her after he made a rude comment to her.
Just five days later a woman walking on her own was attacked by three men, beaten and pushed to the ground.
They held her down and forced their fingers into her mouth while saying offensive, sexual words to her.
And in the latest incident just five days ago, a woman had to use martial arts to elbow her would-be rapist in the head and escape after three men surrounded her and punched to the ground and tried to pull her trousers down.
Police in Östersund, with a population of just 45,000, say they have never seen anything like this before.
They took the unprecedented move of calling a press conference to warn women to stay indoors.
Stephen Jerand, the county police commissioner, admitted police in the town are struggling to cope – adding that the surge in attacks ‘seem unreal’.
He said: ‘We called the press meeting because we have seen an accelerating development here.
‘This is a small town where groups of men are attacking women during the night. We wanted to warn the public and urge women not to walk home on the streets in the central part of the town after dark, because it is not safe.
‘The situation is tense. We have never experienced anything like this before. It is almost unreal. Eight attacks and just three this last weekend. This is a quiet part of Sweden where we barely have had any attacks on women and now this.’
So far only one man, whose nationality is unknown, has been arrested; Taleb Moafagh was caught allegedly attempting to flee to Germany on board a ferry in southern Sweden. He was detained in connection to an attack on February 26th.
For those living in the town surrounded by mountains, 350 miles north-west of Stockholm, there is no doubt where to find these criminals: among the migrant men who have arrived in droves in recent months, forcing them off the streets of the town they call home.
An asylum centre has opened 10km outside the town holding 900 refugees, mostly from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.
Commissioner Jerand added: ‘We have had a lot of problems with immigration. It strikes our resources really hard. We are often called out to asylum centres.
‘We see increasing violence towards women and children at the centres and do not really have the resources to cope with everything.’
The string of assaults began on February 20, when the two young schoolgirls were groped.
Fortunately, a number of adults saw what was happening and intervened – but the attackers fled from the scene before police could arrive.
Other incidents include women being molested outside a nightclub, a group of women walking home being groped by a laughing mob of men, and a woman being told she would be raped and murdered.