Sweden reeling after 'terror crimes'

Two attacks Saturday evening brought the struggle with terrorism to Sweden, which until now has avoided the violent attacks that have taken place in other European nations.

Claudio Bresciani/AP
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt talks at a press conference Sunday, in Stockholm following Saturday's attack in the city center. Swedish police said Sunday that two explosions in central Stockholm were an act of terrorism, in what appeared to be the first attack in the Nordic country by a suicide bomber.

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Two explosions rocked central Stockholm Saturday evening in what Swedish police have called a terrorist attack.

One man, who appears to have been a suicide bomber, was killed, and two people were injured. The explosions occurred about ten minutes after a Swedish news agency and police received a threatening e-mail that referred to Sweden’s troops in Afghanistan and a Swedish cartoonist's controversial 2007 depiction of the Prophet Muhammad.

The attacks bring the struggle with terrorism to Sweden, which until now has avoided the violent attacks that have taken place in other European nations.

In the first explosion, a car filled with gas canisters burst into flames at about 4:50 p.m. local time on a street in a busy shopping center, reports The Guardian.

Another explosion occurred nearby 10-15 minutes later, and witnesses reported seeing a man lying on the ground afterward with wounds in his abdomen.

The Swedish newspaper Aftonblade reported the he was carrying pipe bombs and a backpack full of nails, according to the Guardian, but that news was not confirmed by authorities. Police did say it was “possible” that the man had blown himself up, and a police spokesman said Sunday the force was investigating “terror crimes.”

Swedish newspapers are reporting that the man blew himself up, with the paper Dagens Nyheter quoting a medic who said "It looked as if the man had been carrying something that exploded in his stomach," reports the Guardian. Another Swedish newspaper said witnesses reported the man was shouting in what was apparently Arabic before the explosion.

E-mail threat

The explosions appeared linked to the e-mail sent both to Sweden’s security police and Swedish news agency Tidningarnas Telegrambyra.

The New York Times reports that the e-mail contained a sound recording addressed to “Sweden and the Swedish people” and referenced the Swedish deployment in Afghanistan and Lars Vilks, a Swedish cartoonist who in 2007 drew controversial caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad as a dog.

“Now, your children — daughters and sisters — will die like our brothers and sisters and children die," the recording said, according to the Times. “Our actions will speak for themselves. As long as you do not end your war against Islam and the insult against the prophet and your stupid support for that pig Vilks.”

An editor at the Swedish news agency said it did not contain specific information about a planned attack, but it did call on “mujahideen,” or holy warriors, in Europe to mount attacks.

“Now it’s time to attack,” it said. “Do not wait any longer. Come forth with whatever you have, even if it is a knife, and I know that you can bring more than knives. Fear no one. Do not be afraid of jail. Do not fear death.”

Sweden's role in Afghanistan

Sweden has about 500 signals intelligence specialists in the NATO force in Afghanistan. Last month, the Swedish prime minister made public plans to withdraw Swedish combat forces from Afghanistan over the next four years. And Vilks has come under death threats and assassination attempts since his controversial cartoons.

As The Christian Science Monitor reported, he has not backed away from controversy since he was attacked by a protester when in May he showed an Iranian film that depicted the Prophet Muhammad entering a gay bar.

Resentment toward Islam and Muslim immigrants is rising in Sweden, as in other European nations.

In September, the far-right Sweden Democrats won a surprising 20 seats in Parliament. The group is staunchly anti-immigration, and particularly against Muslim immigrants.

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