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 45,000, say they have never seen anything like this before.
They took the unprecedented move of calling a press conference on Monday 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 told MailOnline: ‘We called the press meeting this Monday because we have seen an accelerating development here.
BEATEN, GROPED AND THREATENED WITH RAPE: SWEDISH POLICE GIVE DETAILS OF THE BRUTAL ATTACKS
February 20: Two ten-year-old girls were groped by a group of adult men. Police say the men surrounded the girls at a bus station and started to touch them while threatening to rape them. Adults saw what was happening and intervened before the men escaped.
February 21: A women was walking alone at midnight in the town centre when a man passing by made sexual remark. The woman responded by calling him an ‘idiot’. He punched her, splitting her eyebrow and threatened to kill her. He was interrupted by passers-by and fled.
February 26: A women walking to work near the university 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. Taleb Moafagh, 22, was arrested over the incident.
February 27: Police saw men surround a group of women and grope them outside a nightclub. When police tried to intervene, a drunken brawl broke out between men coming out of the club and the sex attackers fled.
March 2: Two women walking home from a bar were stopped by a group of men who told them: ‘Girls should not be out at this time of the night’ – before pushing them into a corner and groping them, then wandered off, laughing.
March 5: A woman walking by herself was threatened by a man in passing car, who screamed at her he would get his friends to ‘rape and murder’ her. When she ran off, he chased her but she managed to get to her apartment before he reached her.
March 6: A women walking home alone was whistled at by a man. When she told him to stop, he hit her in the head with his fist. She fell down and he punched her a second time, pushed her head into the snow and screamed at her he would rape and kill her before fleeing.
March 6: The same day another woman was walking home from a restaurant was attacked by three men. She was hit in the stomach by two of the men and shoved to the ground. A third man began undoing her trousers, but she managed to hit him in the head with her elbow. He started bleeding and fled. She later told police she was trained in martial arts – a skill police say saved her from being raped.
‘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.’
Officers are confident they will catch the perpetrators and say victims claim their attackers were of ‘foreign origin’.
So far only one man, whose nationality is unknown, has been arrested.
Taleb Moafagh, 22, 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 26.
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.
Many within the community have blamed the migrants for the attacks. Police have not released any nationalities of suspects but have admitted victims described their attackers as men of ‘foreign origin’.
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.
Even before this week’s warning, the women and teenagers who live in the city were too terrified to walk alone at night, telling MailOnline the situation has got ‘out of hand’.
Josefine Larsson, 16, told MailOnline it is ‘really worrying’ and that she is frightened to out late on her own.
‘Everyone is saying that there are immigrants responsible for this. But they are always blamed when something goes wrong,’ she said.
‘Hopefully the police will eventually arrest these psychopaths and then we will see who they are.’
Bodil Strömquist, also 16, said she and her friends were taking ‘every type of precaution’ possible before leaving the house, but added it must be resolved before the situation spirals out of control.
‘As a girl you have to judge every man that passes by, does he look suspicious or not, could he attack me?’
However, others said the situation had already got ‘out of hand’, and admitted they were ‘terrified’ to go outside after dark.
Lovis Jonsson, 16, said: ‘It is terrible that women are the ones who are targeted. I feel afraid and exposed. I will never go out by myself after dark after the police warnings.’
Gry Abrahamsson, also 16, told MailOnline: ‘It is really creepy what is going on in town. I never thought the police in a small town like this would have to tell women to stay inside because of groups of men attacking innocent women during the night. This has gotten out of hand.
‘I am scared and will never walk by myself during night time here again. Tonight I am out with a friend and we are meeting a few other friends to go to a restaurant.
‘We are in contact with our parents throughout the evening. This is now the normal procedure for us.’