Stockholm – A suspected terrorist attack in the Swedish capital on Friday that left four people dead and more than a dozen injured has left the country shaken and led to the imposition of increased border controls.
Sweden has been “violently attacked” and “is in a state of shock,” Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said after an emergency cabinet meeting. “Our whole country is gathered in mourning, anger and decisiveness.”
“If this is an act committed by a single assailant or an organization our message is that you cannot cow us or rule our lives,” he said.
Border controls would run for 10 days and could be extended for a further 20 days, Interior Minister Anders Ygeman told Swedish broadcaster SVT, moments after the meeting.
A hijacked lorry rammed through a crowded area of pedestrians in the centre of Stockholm on Friday afternoon before then crashing into a department store.
Members of the public evacuate a shopping centre in Stockholm after a lorry was driven at a crowd of people in the shopping area on April 7, 2017. (Credit Image: © Stephen Simpson/London News Pictures via ZUMA Wire) Photo: Stephen Simpson via ZUMA Wire/dpa
Police said they had made one arrest in connection with the incident. They were “working on the assumption it was a terrorist attack,” spokesman Stefan Hector said.
The daily tabloid Aftonbladet reported that a man with “slight injuries” had been arrested in Marsta, just north of the capital and had claimed responsibility for the attack.
The truck used in the attack had been stolen from the Spendrups beer brewery by a masked man who jumped into the truck’s cabin after the driver had stepped out, a brewery spokesman told Swedish radio.
Police admitted however that there were still many things they did not know about the attack.
There was no confirmation as to whether the arrested suspect had driven the stolen truck, or whether he had accomplices.
“We do not know whether this was a single incident or whether there may be more incidents,” senior police officer Mats Lofving said.
Video posted on social media showed people running to avoid the lorry as it sped down Drottninggatan street at around 3 pm (1300 GMT), when the pedestrian way was brimming with afternoon shoppers and tourists. The vehicle erupted in flames when it slammed into the Ahlens department store.
Broadcast images showed panicked people trying desperately to get out of the building and off the street.
“It was horrible,” one witness told Swedish television. “There was so much blood on the street, people were lying everywhere.”
“Had I arrived there one minute later, I would have been run over. I saw people who were dead,” Sandra Japundzic Lindquist told Swedish broadcaster Ekot.
Much of central Stockholm was shut down and people were instructed to avoid the area.
The Swedish rail operator confirmed that the central train station was shut down, although some travel restrictions were lifted later in the evening.
The parliament building, which lies further down the pedestrian street Drottninggatan, was in lockdown. Theatres and cinemas were also reportedly shut down.
This is Europe’s fourth attack in the past 12 months in which a vehicle was use to attack a crowd of civilians, after deadly attacks in London, Berlin and Nice.
“One of Europe’s most vibrant and colourful cities appears to have been struck by those wishing it – and our very way of life – harm,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in a statement.
“An attack on any of our member states is an attack on us all,” he added.
London “stands united with Stockholm and Londoners stand with the people of Stockholm,” mayor Sadiq Khan said, just over two weeks after a terrorist attack near the British parliament.
“The United States strongly condemns today’s terrorist attack on the heart of Stockholm,” US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said, describing it as “brutal and senseless.”