Stockholm attack suspect 'known to security services'
The driver of a hijacked beer delivery truck that careered into crowds on Stockholm’s largest shopping street, killing four and injuring many more, is believed to be a 39-year-old man from Uzbekistan previously known to the security services.
Police in Sweden’s capital confirmed that a man had been arrested “on suspicion of a terrorist crime through murder” after the attack on Friday afternoon, which saw the haulage vehicle drive down a pedestrianised street in the capital before crashing into a department store.
Karin Rosander, a communications director at the Swedish prosecution authority, said that police suspected the arrested man had carried out the attack.
He continued to be detained on Saturday.
The country’s national police chief, Dan Eliason, confirmed reports that the suspect was aged 39 and from the central Asian country.
He added that he had previously been named in security information but was not recently under investigation, describing the suspect as “a more marginal character”.
Anders Thornberg, head of the Swedish security service, said: “The suspect didn’t appear in our recent files but he earlier has been in our files.”
He said the security services were working with other nations’ security agencies on the matter, but declined to elaborate.
About 15 people were injured and four killed in the attack launched on Drottninggatan, one of the city’s main public thoroughfares.
Five of the injured had been released from hospital by Saturday morning but ten remained under care, including a child.
Police sources reportedly told the Swedish broadcaster SVT that a bag of explosives was found in the truck and a bomb disposal unit was deployed overnight.
They added that the devices had not been detonated and it is claimed the suspect had “burned himself”.
Officials declined to confirm the reports but added that a device of some kind had been found in the truck.
“The person in question has been arrested as the culprit ... in this case the driver,” police spokesman Lars Bystrom said.
A police patrol stopped the man on Friday after the attack because he had “behaved in a way that made him interesting”, and he resembled a suspect in photos issued by police shortly after the crash.
According to a report in the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet, citing a police source, the arrested man is a 39-year-old from Uzbekistan.
He had minor injuries and broken glass on his clothes, which matched those of the man in the photos.
He is said to have taken a train north from the city after the attack and was arrested in a suburb near the airport, although he lives elsewhere in Stockholm.
Police spokesman Lars Bystrom declined to comment on the reports.
Other media reports said a second man had been detained on suspicion of being connected to the main suspect.
The police declined to comment on whether it had arrested any other people.
If confirmed as a terrorist attack, it would be Sweden’s first such assault using a large vehicle.
The prime minister, Stefan Löfven, said he had strengthened the country’s border controls.
“Terrorists want us to be afraid, want us to change our behaviour, want us to not live our lives normally, but that is what we’re going to do.
So terrorists can never defeat Sweden, never,” he said.
Restrictions on local transport imposed after the attack were lifted on Friday evening.
Fredrik Reinfeldt, the former prime minister of Sweden, said on Saturday that a liberal, open society must accept that its very freedoms make such attacks possible.
“The feeling is that the price of the open society is that it’s very tough for us to shelter against these kinds of initiatives taken by a single person,” he told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4.
Swedes would not reject the principle of free movement across borders, nor accept extreme levels of surveillance to stop future attacks, although there may be a debate over whether greater use of CCTV is warranted, Reinfelt said.
“We are preparing, we understand the risks; but we are not willing to close down the openness that is the flare of freedom that we love so much.”
The attack occurred just before 3pm (1300 GMT) when the stolen truck crashed into the corner of the bustling Åhléns department store having driven at speed down the pedestrianised Drottninggatan, situated above Stockholm’s central subway station.
Pictures taken at the scene showed a large blue beer truck with a mangled undercarriage smashed into the department store.
Witnesses described scenes of terror and panic.
“A massive truck starts driving ... and mangles everything and just drives over exactly everything,” Rikard Gauffin told Agence France-Presse.
“It was so terrible and there were bodies lying everywhere ... it was really terrifying.”
The truck was towed away in the early hours of Saturday.
A witness who gave his name as Marko said he and his girlfriend were in a coffee shop near the scene when he saw the truck ram into the store.
“He hit a woman first, then he drove over a bunch of other people ...
We took care of everyone lying on the ground,” he told Aftonbladet.
Hasan Sidi, another passerby, told Aftonbladet he saw two elderly women lying on the ground.
He said people at the scene urged him to help one of the women who was “bleeding to death”.
Sidi said: “One of them died ... I don’t know if the other one made it.”
Friday’s attack was the latest in a string of similar assaults with vehicles in Europe, including in London, Berlin and Nice.
The British prime minister, Theresa May, spoke with her Swedish counterpart on Saturday and offered to work together against extremist attacks.
A Downing Street statement said May expressed her condolences on behalf of the British people in a telephone call to Löfven.
The statement said the leaders agreed on the importance of working together to tackle such threats.
In a similar attack on Westminster last month, Khalid Masood drove a rented SUV into pedestrians before running into the grounds of parliament where he stabbed a police officer to death.
Six people died, including the attacker.
The deadliest vehicle-based attack came last year in France on the 14 July Bastille Day national holiday, when a man rammed a truck into a crowd in the Mediterranean resort of Nice, killing 86 people.