Swedish police have arrested the man they accuse of plowing a hijacked beer delivery truck into a crowd in central Stockholm on Friday, killing four people and wounding more than a dozen in what they called a terror crime.
After a five-hour manhunt on Friday, Swedish police apprehended the man who matched the profile of a person seen leaving the crime scene, but cautioned they had yet to ascertain whether he was the suspected perpetrator. Magistrates have until Tuesday to decide whether the suspect should remain in custody, and specify charges. “He is suspected of conducting an act of terror,” Swedish prosecutors’ spokeswoman Karin Rosander said.
"The person in question has been arrested as the culprit ... in this case the driver," police spokesman Lars Bystrom said of the attack, adding that the authorities were not ruling out the possibility that he had accomplices, although only one person had been taken into custody.
While police declined to comment on the identity or possible motive of the man, who was detained in a northern Stockholm suburb, the arrested suspect comes from Uzbekistan and is 39 years old, investigators said at a press conference. He was described as “a marginal character,” previously named in “security information” but not under any recent investigation. Officials did not provide any further information on the suspect’s identity or how he got into the country.
Police declined to comment on an earlier report by public broadcaster SVT that a bag containing a home-made bomb had been found in the truck used in Friday’s attack in Stockholm, but said that some sort of “technical device that should not be there” was uncovered from the driver’s seat. Investigators are not yet able to determine the nature of the device.
The Stockholm attack bears “clear similarities” to the March 22 Westminster attack in London, officials said at the press conference. Officials did not comment on reports of the suspect’s alleged links to Islamic State, but stated that the investigation team is screening phones and other electronic devices in his possession to check for possible links and potential accomplices. The officials did not make any comments on the matter, but stressed that they were in an “intensive part of investigation.”
The attack might have long-term consequences as the authorities “cannot rule out that there are people who can be inspired by this,” said Jonas Hysing from Sweden’s National Tactical Council (NTR). “The main goal of the Security Service is to prevent future attacks and to find possible accomplices,” head of the Security Service Anders Thornberg said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack and police said security at Sweden's borders had been heightened and traffic restricted on the Oresund Bridge linking Denmark and Sweden.
The attack stunned Sweden, which has so far been largely immune from any major incidents of this kind. "I think it was just a matter of time, but still one doesn't think it will happen," Cecilia Hansson, a 25 year-old nurse, said. "It's still unreal when it happens this close."
As reported yesterday, the rampage took place on Friday afternoon, when a man hijacked a beer-delivery truck, and drove an estimated 500 yards through the crowded Drottninggatan pedestrian shopping street. The beer truck ploughed through crowds before ramming into the Ahlens department store. The driver escaped in the ensuing chaos, with people fleeing from the area.
As the WSJ notes, local authorities in the capital, where flags flew at half mast on buildings including the parliament and royal palace, said that 10 people including a child were still being treated in hospital on Saturday. Two adults were in intensive care.
The incident, which came a day after Sweden’s police, military and security services jointly practiced their terror-response capabilities, underscored the formidable security challenge posed by isolated attackers turning vehicles into weapons. It was the fourth major attack in Europe in less than a year in which a vehicle appeared to be used as a weapon of terror. In July, an attacker in Nice, France, plowed into revelers celebrating Bastille Day, killing 86.
According to Reuters, the attack was the latest to hit the Nordic region after shootings in the Danish capital Copenhagen killed three people in 2015 and put the country on high alert and the 2011 bombing and shooting 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 organized planning," Anders Thornberg, head of the Sapo security police, 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
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