Stockholm attack suspect is an Uzbek national

Swedish police find a suspect device in the vehicle which ploughed into pedestrians

A truck drove into a crowd on a shopping street and crashed into a department store in central Stockholm on Friday. Video: Reuters

 

Swedish police arrested a 39-year-old Uzbek man on suspicion of ramming a hijacked beer delivery truck into crowds in central Stockholm, killing four people and wounding 15 in what they called a terror attack.

Police were increasingly confident they had detained the driver of the truck that ploughed down a busy shopping street and smashed through a storefront in the heart of the capital on Friday afternoon, but did not name him.

“Nothing points to that we have the wrong person, on the contrary, suspicions have strengthened as the investigation has progressed,” Dan Eliasson, head of Sweden‘s national police, told a news conference.

“We still cannot rule out that more people are involved.”

The man was detained in a northern Stockholm suburb on Friday and later arrested on suspicion of having committed a terror crime.

The man had previously figured marginally in intelligence material, but had not been linked to extremists.

“We received intelligence last year, but we did not see any links to extremist circles,” Säpo security police chief Anders Thornberg said.

Mr Eliasson said there were “clear similarities” in Friday’s incident to an attack last month in London in which six people died, including the assailant.

In that attack, a man drove into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge near Britain’s parliament and then fatally stabbed a policeman before being killed himself.

Vehicles have also been used as weapons in Nice and Berlin in the past year in attacks claimed by Islamic State.

Al-Qaeda also urged its followers to use trucks as a weapon in 2010.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack in Sweden, which has so far been largely immune from any major incidents of this kind.

Swedish police said they have tightened security across the nation.

They also said they had found a suspicious device in the vehicle, but they did not yet know if it was a homemade bomb, as reported by public broadcaster SVT.

SVT said the bomb may have partly exploded during the incident, burning the driver, who escaped in the ensuing chaos after mowing through crowds and ramming into the Åhléns department store.

Local authorities in the capital, where flags flew at half-mast at the parliament and royal palace, said that 10 people, including a child, were still being treated in hospital, with two adults in intensive care.

The vehicle was removed overnight for examination by forensics experts.

A gaping hole in the wall of the store showed the force of the truck’s impact.

Dozens of people gathered to pay their respects and leave flowers at the site, stunned by the attack.

Crown Princess Victoria was among them, laying a bouquet of red roses.

“I feel an enormous sadness, I feel empty,” she told Aftonbladet TV, urging Swedes to unite in their grief.

Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven also visited the site and struck a defiant tone.

“All of us feel anger over what has happened, I also feel the same anger, but we also need to use that anger for something constructive and go forward,” he said.

“We want - and I am convinced the Swedish people also want - to live a normal life. We are an open, democratic society and that is what we will remain.“

Past attacks

The attack was the latest to hit the Nordic region, after shootings in the Danish capital Copenhagen killed three people in 2015 and a bombing and shooting in 2011 by far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik that killed 77 people in Norway.

Although Sweden has not seen a large-scale attack, a failed suicide bombing in December 2010 killed an attacker only a few hundred yards from the site of Friday’s incident.

Swedish police said it was especially difficult to identify “lone-wolf” attackers in an open, Nordic society.

“It is very hard if it is a single individual who is not part of a wider conspiracy or a more organised planning,” Mr Thornberg told Swedish radio.

“But we have to find these individuals as well.”

Police in Norway’s largest cities and at Oslo Airport will carry weapons until further notice following the attack.

Neutral Sweden has not fought a war in more than 200 years, but its military has taken part in UN peacekeeping missions in several conflict zones, including Iraq, Mali and Afghanistan.

Witness accounts

“I turned around and saw a big truck coming towards me. It swerved from side to side. It didn’t look out of control. It was trying to hit people,” Glen Foran, an Australian tourist in his 40s who witnessed Friday’s attack, told Reuters.

“It hit people; it was terrible. It hit a pram with a kid in it, demolished it,” he said.

“It took a long time for police to get here. I suppose from their view it was quick, but it felt like forever.”

A Reuters witness at the scene saw police officers put what appeared to be two bodies into body bags.

Bloody tyre tracks showed the path of the truck, which was stolen by a masked hijacker as it made a beer delivery to a tapas bar on Drottninggatan, according to Spendrups Brewery spokesman Marten Lyth.

“We were standing by the traffic lights at Drottninggatan and then we heard some screaming and saw a truck coming,” a witness who declined to be named told Reuters.

“Then it drove into a pillar at Åhléns City, where the hood started burning. When it stopped we saw a man lying under the tyre.

“It was terrible to see,” said the man, who saw the incident from his car.

Reuters