x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Stockholm blasts were 'terror crimes' says Sweden

Man believed to have been blown up by own bomb, injuring two, after threatening letter sent to news agency over Sweden's military presence in Afghanistan.

Two explosions killed a man and injured two other people in a busy shopping area in central Stockholm.
Two explosions killed a man and injured two other people in a busy shopping area in central Stockholm.

STOCKHOLM // Swedish police investigating two blasts that rocked central Stockholm on Saturday night, killing one person and wounding two, said today they had good leads into what they said were "terror crimes".

Before the explosions, the Swedish news agency TT received a threatening letter about Sweden's military presence in Afghanistan and caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed drawn several years ago by a Swedish cartoonist.

A senior Swedish security police official told a news conference tonday that the blasts were being treated as "terror crimes" and police had established good leads.

Anders Thornberg, director of operations at the Security Police, said police could neither confirm that the man who died was a suicide bomber nor discuss his identity, as some family members had not yet been informed.

"We are investigating this as terror crimes according to Swedish law … we have not raised the security (threat) level," Mr Thornberg said, adding that the police were stepping up their presence in the capital.

The drama began when a car burst into flames near a busy shopping street in the city centre, followed by explosions inside the car which police said were caused by gas canisters.

The second explosion, about 300 metres way and 10 to 15 minutes later, killed one man and wounded two people.

Police vans cordoned off several streets around the body and towed away the car. The rest of the city centre was calm, with people having a normal Saturday night out.

Several hours after the blast, the man's body was still lying on the pavement, covered with a white sheet.

Swedish newspapers all said the dead man had blown himself up. Dagens Nyheter quoted a man called Pascal, a trained medic, as saying "It looked as if the man had been carrying something that exploded in his stomach".

"He had no injuries to the face or body in general and the shops around were not damaged."

The Aftonbladet quoted a source as saying the man was carrying six pipebombs, of which only one exploded, and a rucksack full of nails and suspected explosive material.

The paper quoted eyewitnesses as saying the man was shouting in what was apparently Arabic.

TT said the email it received was also sent to the Security Police and had sound files in Swedish and Arabic.

TT quoted a man as saying in one recording: "Our actions will speak for themselves, as long as you do not end your war against Islam and humiliation of the Prophet and your stupid support for the pig Vilks,".

TT said the threat was linked to Sweden's contribution to the US-led NATO force in Afghanistan, where it has 500 soldiers, mainly in the north.

It also referred to caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed by the Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who depicted the Prophet with the body of a dog in a cartoon in 2007.

In March, an American who called herself "JihadJane" was charged with plotting to kill Mr Vilks. In May, arsonists tried to set fire to his house.

Evan Kohlmann, a US terrorism consultant, told Reuters that a small militant Islamic community had been based in Sweden for some time. But he thought the incident on Saturday, if an attack, was one man's work: "Given the scale of this attack and the target, I suspect this is a homegrown local extremist who may or may not have connections to any actual terrorist organisation."

"We've seen a flurry of attempted attacks across northern Europe by similar lone wolf militants who were, in one way or another, enraged by the cartoon controversy."

Police spokesman Kjell Lindgren said it was not clear what had started the fire that made gas canisters in the car explode.