Stockholm blasts ‘a terrorist crime’: secret service

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STOCKHOLM: Twin blasts that rocked central Stockholm killing one man were on Sunday described as a “terrorist” attack by Sweden’s domestic intelligence agency Saepo. “We are opening an investigation into a terrorist crime,” Anders Thornberg, head of Saepo’s security unit, said a day after an apparent car bomb and a separate blast targeted Christmas shoppers in the Swedish capital.
The suspected bomber, whose identity has not been made public, was killed but Thornberg told a press conference that it was unclear if he had intended to blow himself up. “If this was a suicide attack, it would be new in Sweden,” he said.
“This is very serious and we are doing everything we can to investigate this,” he said.
Two people were injured when a car packed with gas canisters exploded around 5pm on Saturday in the busy shopping street of Drottninggatan. A second blast occurred shortly afterwards a few hundred metres away, killing the man. Swedish television reported that a bag filled with nails had been found near the body.
The consequences of the attack “could have been truly catastrophic”, Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said on Twitter. Stockholm police said patrols would be stepped up in the wake of the attack, which comes six weeks after Saepo raised the security alert level from low to elevated.
Germany, Britain and France all raised their alert levels last month amid increased fears of possible terrorist attacks in Europe. Saturday’s attack was unlikely to cause renewed security hikes elsewhere in Europe.
“For the moment, there is nothing to indicate that the attack was anything other than an attack directed uniquely at Stockholm,” said Judith Sluiter, spokeswoman for the Dutch national anti-terrorism coordinator. “We don’t believe there is any reason to review the terrorism alert level in the Netherlands,” she added. Swedish news agency TT said it had received an email about 10 minutes before the first blast in Arabic and Swedish, warning of unspecified “action”.
“Our acts will speak for themselves,” TT quoted the message as saying. “Now your children, your daughters and your sisters will die as our brothers, our sisters and our children are dying.” Sweden has around 500 troops in Afghanistan as part of the US-led international security force. Their mandate only runs to January 1, and would need to be renewed by parliament for them to stay on.
Punitive actions would continue “as long as you do not stop your war against Islam, your degradation of the Prophet and your stupid support for the pig Vilks”, said the statement.
TT said a similar message had been sent to Saepo. “I haven’t read the mail exactly but what I know myself is that one man was not satisfied with the developments we have in Sweden, regarding that we have military troops in other countries and that there have been bad things said about the Prophet and so on, but it’s too early to say,” said Saepo’s Thornberg. Sheik Hassan Mussa, the imam of Stockholm’s grand mosque, deplored “all forms of attacks, violence, fears and threats against innocent people, whatever the motive or pretext”, in a statement sent to TT.