Residents came out to applaud police responding to arson and rioting in Rinkeby, northern Stockholm, police said, after the Swedish capital experienced its fifth night of disturbances in different parts of the city.

Police tactics were having an effect and things were calmer after a total of 29 arrests during the week, said Kjell Lindgren, Stockholm city police spokesman. Those arrested were aged 16 to 26, he said, and some were previously known to the police.

Calls for a tougher response to the rioting were rejected by police. “You can scream for more arrests but it is not so easy, it is a form of guerrilla warfare,” Jörgen Ohlsson, section police chief, told Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

Husby, the centre of unrest in the early part of the week, was quiet on Thursday night, but in nearby Rinkeby several cars were torched. “Last night people came out on to their balconies and applauded us,” Mr Lindgren said. The fire brigade answered 70 calls during the night, according to Swedish news agency TT.

A Swedish Facebook page called “Support the police in Husby – end the violence” has attracted 112,000 supporters in a matter of days.

Stockholm has had fewer than 280 officers policing this city of 2m people every night this week, 100 more than usual. “We have far fewer per capita than London or Liverpool,” Mr Lindgren said.

He withheld judgment on accusations of racism and brutality that have been levelled at the police by rioters. “We don’t recognise any truth in these accusations – we are more professional than that. We will leave it to the appropriate authorities to investigate,” he said. “We don’t want to speculate about the causes of the rioting. Our job is to prevent crime.”

Michael Lundh, a former Stockholm police officer for 26 years who has written about police racism and is on the board of anti-racist foundation Expo, told Dagens Nyheter he had spent the past two nights with young people in Husby and was “surprised by their incredible contempt for the police – it was much stronger than I had expected”.

In Kista, a relatively affluent neighbourhood adjacent to Husby, rioters burnt down a Montessori school in the early hours of the morning.

Abdurakhim, 56, watched the raging blaze in despair. He commented that the different life chances represented by the Montessori school compared with schools in his home area of Husby was something relatively new in Sweden. Previously the country was more equal. “Better school, better life chances: it never used to be like this,” he said.

The schools in Husby itself have not been spared, however – two have experienced arson attacks this week.

Daniel, a Kista resident, said he suspected schools were being targeted because rioters could be certain they were empty at night, so no one would be hurt.

Inequality is growing faster in Sweden than in any other developed nation, according to the OECD.

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