Reykjavík and capital-area police are investigating a series of crimes believed to be connected to the knife attack that occurred at Bankastræti Club in downtown Reykjavík on Thursday night. RÚV reports that in the wake of the attack, which left three young men hospitalized, petrol bombs have been thrown into houses, windows broken, and suspects’ families subjected to harassment. There have also been posts on social media, encouraging retaliation for the attacks. Police believe that the incidents possibly herald the beginnings of a gang war, although this but one possible explanation.
Police still searching for over ten suspects; two have fled the country
A group of almost thirty people, all dressed in dark clothing and masks, barged into Bankastræti Club on Thursday night and attacked three men, all of whom were in their twenties, stabbing them repeatedly before fleeing the scene. The stabbing victims have since posted on social media, seemingly unruffled by the incident, and two of them were also interviewed on FM957 on Saturday. In the interview, they said that one of them had been stabbed a total of seven times, but was feeling pretty good, all things considered, or “like a king,” as he put it.
As of Saturday, fourteen of those involved in the attack had been arrested and nine had been sentenced to two weeks in police custody. Police were still searching for over ten of the remaining suspects, although their identities were believed to be known. Two suspects have fled the country.
Over the weekend, police called for anyone involved in the incident to come forward, but only one person did. A search of suspects’ phone data is also underway, but police say this will be an extensive and intensive process.
Stress on prison system
The scope of the incident and the number of people remanded into custody is already straining the local prison system’s capacity, as it is unusual for so many people to be held at once. Halldór Valur Pálsson, director of the Icelandic prison system, says that while prison officials in no way anticipated an incident of this scope and with this many detainees, Icelandic prisons still have enough capacity to deal with the situation at present. But things could become serious, he says, if a gang war is, in fact, underway.
“It absolutely threatens the safety of the staff and other prisoners as well, if this kind of conflict is going on,” he said. “If there are gang conflicts happening out in society, they also find their ways into the prisons in the end.”
The capacity issue is not just a question of being able to hold suspects while the police investigate, however. It also has a knock-on effect for those waiting to serve a prison sentence. New measures have been introduced in recent years that allow convicted individuals to serve their sentences outside of prison walls, for instance by means of electronic surveillance or community service. But there is still a waiting list for those who are actually required to serve their sentences in prison. These individuals must wait to serve their sentences until a facility has room for them. There are currently 317 individuals waiting to serve their prison sentences.
Stabbing may be linked to motorcycle fire
Police say that the investigation is progressing well, considering its scope. The inciting incident has yet to be confirmed, but it’s possible that the stabbings were related to two motorcycles that were set on fire in Álftamýri on the east side of Reykjavík last Wednesday night.