Stockholm truck attack suspect named by media

Swedish police arrest second terror suspect as thousands attend memorial event

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

 

An Uzbek man suspected of driving a truck into a crowd in Stockholm, killing four people, had expressed sympathy for Islamic State and was wanted for failing to comply with a deportation order, Swedish police have said.

Two sources who had worked with the suspect independently identified him to Reuters as Rakhmat Akilov from images distributed by police.

Two police spokespersons declined to confirm his identity, as did the suspect’s court-appointed lawyer.

On Sunday, thousands gathered near the site of Friday’s attack to show support for those killed and injured when a hijacked beer delivery truck hurtled down a busy shopping street before crashing into a store and catching fire.

The Uzbek man was arrested several hours after the incident.

“The suspect had expressed sympathy for extremist organisations, among them Islamic State,” Jonas Hysing, chief of national police operations, told a news conference.

Two of those killed in the attack were Swedes, one was a British citizen and the other was from Belgium, Mr Hysing said.

The attack echoed recent assaults in Nice, Berlin and London, in which vehicles were used as deadly weapons.

Those attacks were claimed by Islamic State, but there has been no such claim yet for the Stockholm assault.

The suspect in the suspect attack, aged 39 and from the Central Asian republic of Uzbekistan, applied for permanent residence in Sweden in 2014.

However, his bid was rejected and he was wanted for disregarding a deportation order, Mr Hysing said.

Security Police spokesman Simon Bynert said the suspect had been involved in an asylum process in Sweden, but that the security police had not been part of it.

Police had been looking for him since Sweden’s Migration Agency in December gave him four weeks to leave the country, but security services had not viewed him as a militant threat.

Sweden’s prosecution authority said a second person had been arrested on suspicion of having committed a terrorist offence through murder, but police said they were more convinced than ever that the Uzbek man was the driver of the truck.

Another five people were being held for questioning after raids over the weekend and police said they had conducted about 500 interviews.

Heightened alert

Police across the Nordic region went on heightened alert after the attack.

In neighbouring Norway, police set off a controlled explosion of a “bomb-like device” in central Oslo on Sunday and took a suspect into custody.

Although nine of the 15 people injured in the attack remained in hospital, two of them in intensive care, Stockholm began to return normal on Sunday, with the removal of police barricades along the street where the attack took place.

Hundreds of flower bouquets covered steps near where the truck ploughed into the Åhléns department store.

Only yards from the scene, thousands of people gathered in the Sergels torg square in a show of unity, as heavily-armed police stood guard and a police helicopter hovered overhead.

“I want to show I’m not afraid to go out,” Eva Udd, a 55-year-old nurse who had joined the demonstration with a friend, said.

“I usually never go to things like this, but this just felt so very important.”

Husam Kranda, a Libyan living in Sweden for the past five years who works as a translator, was among the multi-ethnic gathering.

“We believe it’s our duty to come here and show our support for the Swedish society,” he said.

“I know it’s a difficult time, there is a lot going on within Swedish society and internationally. But today is not about that, it’s about showing support for our neighbours and our beloved ones.”

He was joined by his wife from Uzbekistan, Irana Mamedova.

“I really feel ashamed of that man, because this country give him everything, this country give him peace,” she said of the Uzbek suspect. “He is a monster.”

Prime minister Stefan Löfven, addressing a Social Democratic party conference in the western city of Gothenburg, said Sweden would never be broken by acts of terror.

“We will hunt down these murderers with the full power of Sweden’s democracy. There will be no compromises,” he said.

Sweden, a nation of 10 million inhabitants, has long taken pride in its tolerant liberal society and has been among the world’s most welcoming nations for immigrants.

But some Swedes are having second thoughts about its approach, after more than 160,000 people, many from Syria, applied for asylum in 2015.

The Åhléns store cancelled a planned half-price sale of smoke-damaged goods and apologised after a storm of protest on social media over the event, with some claiming that it would be disrespectful to the victims.

Reuters