Bomber planned major attack

 

A Middle East-born man who died in a blast in Stockholm was wearing an explosives belt and likely aimed to attack a crowded train station or department store when the device went off prematurely, an official said today.

Sweden's chief prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand told a news conference the man had been well equipped with explosives and he assumed the man had accomplices as the attack was well planned.

"He was wearing a bomb belt and was carrying a rucksack with a bomb. He was also carrying an object that looks something like a pressure cooker. If it had all exploded at the same time it could have caused very serious damage," Mr Lindstrand said.

A car containing gas canisters blew up in a busy shopping area in central Stockholm on Saturday followed minutes later by a blast nearby which killed the bomber and injured two people.

"It is not a very wild guess that he was headed to some place where there were as many people as possible, perhaps the central station, perhaps (department store) Ahlens," he said.

He said the man was almost certainly Taymour Abdulwahab, who has been widely named in media reports.

He said Abdulwahab was born in 1981, became a Swedish citizen in 1992 and came from a Middle Eastern country, although it was unclear which. The Swedish immigration service said he came to Sweden in 1992 and got citizenship in 1998.

He had lived in Sweden and spent time in Britain.

The University of Bedfordshire in the southern English town of Luton said a student called Taymour Abdulwahab, a Swedish national, had registered in 2001 and graduated with a degree in sports therapy in 2004.

British police were searching a house in Luton.

In Sweden, he lived in the small town of Tranas, about 200km southwest of Stockholm. A house there has also been searched by police.

A post on a Muslim dating website showed Abdulwahab was born in Iraq, was married with two young daughters and looking for a second wife.

Shortly before the blasts, Swedish news agency TT received a threatening letter criticising Sweden's troops in Afghanistan, caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad drawn by a Swedish cartoonist and which spoke of a Middle East trip for "jihad".

"To all Muslims in Sweden I say: stop fawning and humiliating yourselves for a life of humiliation is far from Islam. Help your brothers and sisters and do not fear anything or anyone, only the God you worship," the letter said.

In the letter, he said to his family: "I never went to the Middle East to work or earn money, I went there for jihad. I hope that you can understand me some time." The man worshipped at the Luton Islamic Centre Mosque in 2007.

"He was very friendly, bubbly initially and people liked him. But he came to the attention of our committee for preaching extremist ideas," secretary of the centre Farasat Latif said. When he was confronted, he stormed out and was not seen again at the mosque.

The blasts follow several nervous months in Europe after a US travel alert about possible attacks by militants and a failed bid by a Yemen-based al-Qaeda group to use air cargo to send parcel bombs via Europe to America.

Though Sweden has never had such an attack before, the security police have acted over the years to stop people travelling from Sweden to conflict zones, particularly Somalia.

A court on Friday convicted two men linked to the al Shabaab militant group for conspiracy to commit a terrorist act and sentenced them to four years jail.

"Although the attack failed to cause extensive casualties and the security services in Scandinavia have been active in disrupting previous plots, the blasts do highlight the ongoing risk of terrorist attack in Sweden," said defence journal IHS Jane analyst Matthew Clements.

The Stockholm incident began when a car burst into flames near an area busy with Christmas shoppers in the centre of town, followed by explosions inside the car caused by gas canisters.

The second explosion was about 300m away and 10-15 minutes later, killing Abdulwahab and wounding two people.

Reuters