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Swedish police accused of covering up festival sex assault

An inquiry has been launched into claims police in Sweden purposely downplayed a string of sexual assaults at a music festival. Prime Minister Lofven decried the "betrayal" of young women.

The Swedish police ordered an investigation on Monday after national media made explosive allegations about the cover-up of sexual assault claims. The reports suggested that a number of teenage girls reported being molested by mostly migrant young men at a music festival in August.

Allegedly a group of some 50 suspects carried out the assaults at the "We are Sthlm" youth festival, which attracts thousands of every year and also saw reports of sexual violence in 2014.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven called it "a double betrayal of these young women," in an interview with the "Expressen" newspaper. "It has not been prosecuted and handled in the way we would wish. The second is that police did not inform or tell about these problems."

The incidents have drawn comparisons to the attacks on women in the German city of Cologne on New Year's Eve.

Far-right on a roll

At the time, police characterized the event as having "relatively few crimes." Some officials have even defended the move, saying there were worries the reports could boost sympathy for the far-right.

"This is a sore point. Sometimes we dare not tell how it is because we think it plays into the hands of the Sweden Democrats," said 2014 event organizer Peter Agren to the Swedish press.

Some 163,000 asylum seekers arrived in Sweden in 2015. Although the center-left government has tightened border checks, including controls at the frontier with Denmark, the Sweden Democrats have continued to gain support in the wake of the migrant crisis.

Swedish newspaper "Dagens Nyheter" described the assaults, with 20 complaints being lodged in 2015, 14 of which regarded girls under age 15, and 18 similar complaints in 2014, committed mostly by Afghan young men.

"We have to get to the bottom of this," said national police chief Dan Eliasson on Monday, promising political circumstances would play no role in the investigation.

es/ng (Reuters, AP)

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