Stockholm truck terror attack: Man arrested for 'terrorist crime'; international community shows sympathy

Sweden early Saturday arrested a man for a "terrorist crime", prosecutors said, hours after a beer truck ploughed into a crowd outside a busy department store in central Stockholm, killing four.

The man was arrested "on suspicion of a terrorist crime through murder," Karin Rosander, a communications director at the Swedish Prosecution Authority said.

Police said earlier on Friday after the attack that they had detained the man who "matched the description" of a photo released of a suspect wearing a dark hoodie and military green jacket.

But they did not confirm if he drove the truck.

According to the Aftonbladet newspaper, the same man is a 39-year-old of Uzbek origin and a supporter of the Islamic State (IS) group.

If confirmed as a terror attack, it would be Sweden's first such deadly assault. Fifteen people, including children, were also injured, nine seriously, health authorities said.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said he had strengthened the country's border controls.

"Terrorists want us to be afraid, want us to change our behaviour, want us to not live our lives normally, but that is what we're going to do. So terrorists can never defeat Sweden, never," he said.

Friday's attack was the latest in a string of similar assaults with vehicles in Europe, including in London, Berlin and the southern French city of Nice.

The deadliest came last year in France on the 14 July Bastille Day national holiday, when a man rammed a truck into a crowd in the Mediterranean resort of Nice, killing 86 people.

Stockholm: Scenes afterward 

Stockholm's usually vibrant city centre was eerily silent on Friday evening with restaurants, bars and cinemas shuttered and streets emptied hours after the truck ploughed into the crowd.

The initial scene was chaotic.

After emergency responders rushed to the scene, several bodies could be seen lying on the ground covered with orange blankets. Shattered glass was scattered on the ground near a large blood stain on the asphalt.

Blood smeared on the street after a truck crashed into a Stockholm department store. AP

Blood smeared on the street after a truck crashed into a Stockholm department store. AP

Shaken passersby described their horror at witnessing what police and Prime Minister Stefan Lofven described as a "terror attack".

"A massive truck starts driving ... and mangles everything and just drives over exactly everything," eyewitness Rikard Gauffin said.

"It was so terrible and there were bodies lying everywhere... it was really terrifying," he added.

Police cars and ambulances rapidly flooded the scene, as central streets and squares were blocked off amid fears that another attack could be imminent.

Helicopters hovered overhead across the city, sirens wailed, and police vans criss-crossed the streets using loudspeakers to urge people to head straight home and avoid crowded places.

But with the metro system and commuter trains shut down for several hours after the attack, other streets heading out of the city were packed with thousands of pedestrians trying to find a way home.

Central Stockholm would on any other Friday be abuzz with locals queueing up outside glitzy bars and restaurants and upscale nightclubs.

Haval, a 30-year-old sales clerk who didn't want to reveal his last name, was in the metro at the time of the attack.

His train stopped immediately and he had to get out, along with all the other passengers.

They walked along the street before being ushered inside a nearby hotel for safety.

"We were suddenly trapped inside a hotel and there was the worst kind of horror in there," he told AFP.

"We were scared, we were scared something else would happen, he added.

One witness identified only as Dimitris told the Aftonbladet daily the truck came "out of nowhere."

"I couldn't see if anyone was driving but it was out of control. I saw at least two people get run down. I ran as fast as I could away from there," he said.

Marko was in coffee shop near the scene with his girlfriend when he saw the truck ram into the store.

"He hit a woman first, then he drove over a bunch of other people ... We took care of everyone lying on the ground," he told Swedish daily newspaper Aftonbladet.

Hasan Sidi, another passerby, told Aftonbladet he saw two elderly women lying on the ground.

He said people at the scene urged him to help one of the women who was "bleeding to death".

"One of them died...I don't know if the other one made it," Sidi said.

"The police were shocked. Everyone was shocked."

Despite that shock, Sweden was determined to not let the attackers create fear.

In an editorial, Sweden's biggest broadsheet Dagens Nyheter wrote: "What we feared for a long time finally happened...The fear and panic right after the incident was inevitable. The images from the attack were terrible," the paper said.

But Stockholm managed to stay "cool-headed" even though the attacker struck "Sweden and Stockholm's heart", it added. "Stockholm stands strong. You won't break Stockholm."

Support from international community

International leaders united in sympathy and condemnation on Friday after a man ploughed a truck through a crowd into the front of a department store in central Stockholm.

Police said they had arrested one man after the attack, which killed four people and injured 15, while Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said "everything pointed" to it being a terror attack.

United States

US State Department acting spokesman Mark Toner condemned "this brutal and senseless attack" and said the United States was ready to provide any assistance it could to investigate it.

"Attacks like this are intended to sow the seeds of fear, but in fact they only strengthen our shared resolve to combat terrorism around the world," Toner said in a statement.

United Nations

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned the attack and voiced sympathy for the victims' families.

"We hope that those responsible for the attack will be swiftly brought to justice," he said.

European Union

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the attack was a blow struck against all EU countries.

"An attack on any of our member states is an attack on us all," Juncker said in a message of condolences to the victims, adding the aim appeared to strike at "our very way of life."

Antonio Tajani, the head of the European Parliament, said on Twitter that he was "shocked by the terrible news from Stockholm."

Britain

Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter that he was "deeply concerned by shocking incident in Stockholm."

"Britain's thoughts are with the victims, their families and the whole of Sweden," he said.

France

President Francois Hollande expressed his "horror and indignation" at the attack.

"France expresses its sympathy and solidarity with the families of the victims and all Swedes," he said.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced on Twitter that the Eiffel Tower, which is normally illuminated, would go dark for a minute at midnight in honour of the victims of the attack.

Germany

Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman said Germany stood "together against terror" with Sweden, and offered sympathy for those involved in the attack.

Greece

The country's Foreign Ministry said on Twitter that "We strongly condemn the terrorist attack in Stockholm."

"Our thoughts are with the families of the victims and the people of Sweden."

The Netherlands

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called the attack "terrible news" and said he had conveyed his country’s condolences to his Swedish counterpart.

"Our thoughts go out to the victims and survivors," he said in a message on his Twitter account. "NL stands ready to help where needed."

Russia

"In our country, we are well familiar with the crimes of international terrorism. At this difficult time, Russians weep with the Swedish people," President Vladimir Putin said in a statement.

Spain

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he was "closely following the attack in Stockholm."

"Condolences to the victims and best wishes for recovery to the wounded. We stand by your side Sweden," he said in a Twitter message.

With inputs from AFP


Published Date: Apr 08, 2017 08:41 am | Updated Date: Apr 08, 2017 09:01 am

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