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Swedish authorities say truck attack suspect had been on their radar

© Odd Andersen, AFP | The stolen truck, which was driven through a crowd outside a department store in Stockholm on April 7, 2017, is taken away on April 8.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-04-08

The suspect in Stockholm's deadly beer truck attack is a 39-year-old native of Uzbekistan who had been on authorities' radar previously, Swedish authorities said Saturday.

The prime minister urged citizens to "get through this" and strolled through the streets of the capital to chat with residents.

Earlier on Saturday, Swedish police said they had arrested the driver of the hijacked truck, which killed four people and injured 15 others on a busy street in the Swedish capital on Friday.

'Technical device' found near driver's seat of the truck

Sweden's police chief said authorities were confident they had detained the man who carried out the attack. Police also said they had found an object in the truck that could be a bomb or an incendiary object, and that they were investigating it.

"There is nothing that tells us that we have the wrong person," Dan Eliason told a news conference Saturday, but added he did not know whether others were involved in the attack. "We cannot exclude this."

Prosecutor Hans Ihrman said a person had been formally identified as a suspect “of terrorist offenses by murder,” and should face a pre-trial custody hearing before midday Tuesday or be released. He said the suspect has not yet spoken to authorities and could not confirm whether he was a legal resident of Sweden.

Anders Thornberg, head of the Swedish Security Service, said security services were working with other nations' security agencies to investigate the attack, but declined to elaborate.

Police declined to comment on media reports about overnight police raids around Stockholm or if they were hunting any more suspects in the case. They said the suspect had been on their radar before but not recently, and did not explain why authorities apparently had not considered him a serious threat.

Eliason told reporters the suspect was "a more marginal character."
 

'Sweden targeted because of refugee policy'

National mourning

Swedes were flying flags at half-mast over the weekend to commemorate the victims. Prime Minister Stefan Lofven declared Monday a national day of mourning, with a minute of silence at noon

Sweden's health service said 10 people were still hospitalized for wounds from the attack and four of them were seriously injured.

Many in Sweden were shocked by the attack, questioning whether Swedish society - considered democratic and egalitarian - had failed in some way.

Visiting the attack site at the department store, Sweden's Crown Princess Victoria laid roses on the ground Saturday and wiped away a tear.

"We must show a huge force, we must go against this," she told reporters.

On Saturday morning, Sweden’s vice-prime minister, Isabella Lovin, and Education Minister Gustav Fridolin placed red and yellow roses close to the site of the attack.

‘People running in all directions’

The stolen beer truck traveled for approximately 500 metres along a main pedestrian street known as the Drottninggatan before it smashed into a crowd outside the upscale Ahlens department store about 3 p.m. Friday.

It came to rest at the entrance to the building. TV footage showed smoke coming out of the store after the crash.

“People were screaming and running in all directions,” said Brandon Sekitto, who was in his car nearby. “(The truck) drove straight into the Ahlens entrance.”

“I saw the driver, a man in black who was light around the face,” Brandon told Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter. “Some women were screaming, ‘Run! Run!’”

'We stand united'

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said on Friday that the attack "indicates that it is an act of terror."

Swedes say they will stick together and 'show no fear'

Later Friday night, Lofven laid a bouquet of red roses and lit a candle near the site.
“The country is in a state of shock,” he said. “The aim of terrorism is to undermine democracy. But such a goal will never be achieved in Sweden.”

The Mayor of Stockholm, Karin Wanngard, said the attack showed that the city’s security had not been sufficient enough.

“No, it was not enough, and we will for sure look into that,” she told FRANCE 24’s correspondent Jonathan Walsh at the scene of Friday’s attack.

Wanngard added that “Stockholmers will think about this for many, many years from now, but at the same time we show that we’re not frightened. We stand united and we are able to show that an open Stockholm, a friendly Stockholm, where we live in freedom – an open society, and a democratic society – is more important than by letting us be scared by an attack like this.”

Can 'maniacs' be stopped?

The crash was near the site of a December 2010 attack in which Taimour Abdulwahab, a Swedish citizen who lived in Britain, detonated a suicide bomb, killing himself and injuring two others. He had rigged a car with explosives but the car bomb never went off. Abdulwahab died when one of his devices exploded among panicked Christmas shoppers.

Steve Eklund, 35, who works in an office nearby, said "maniacs can't be stopped."

"It's very simple. Things like this will always happen in an open society," Eklund said. "Sweden is not a totalitarian society."

In February, US President Donald Trump suggested that Sweden could be the next European country to suffer the kind of extremist attacks that have devastated France, Belgium and Germany. Two days after his remarks, a riot broke out in predominantly immigrant suburb of Stockholm where police opened fire on rioters, a surprise to many Swedes who aren't used to officers using guns.

"We must get through this. Life must go on," Lofven said Saturday after again laying flowers near the crash site. "We in Sweden want an open society."

Lofven also made a point of walking around Stockholm, including along the Drottninggatan, chatting with people having coffee outside a cafe.

The prime minister says said the aim of terrorism is to undermine democracy.

"But such a goal will never be achieved in Sweden," he said.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

Date created : 2017-04-08

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