Sweden probes ‘terrorist attack’

Two
explosions in Sweden’s capital Stockholm are being investigated as a “crime of
terror”, officials say.

A
car blew up in a busy shopping area on Saturday afternoon, followed moments
later by a second explosion nearby.

Witnesses
said a man found dead after the second blast had been carrying an explosive
device. Two people were hurt.

Swedish
Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt condemned the attacks as unacceptable in an
open society with a functioning democracy that respects different cultures.

“Our
democracy functions well,” he told a press conference. “Those who feel
frustration or anger have the opportunity to express it without resorting to
violence.”

Police
are investigating an email sent shortly before the blasts threatening attacks
because Sweden had sent troops to Afghanistan.

Sweden
has some 500 soldiers deployed in Afghanistan as part of the international
military force.

Police
are trying to work out whether the explosions were an isolated attack or part
of a larger conspiracy, says the BBC’s Steve Evans in Stockholm.

The
email, which was sent to the country’s security service and the TT news agency,
called for “mujahideen” – or Islamist fighters – to rise up in Sweden and
Europe, promising Swedes would “die like our brothers and sisters”.

It
also attacked the country for caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad drawn by
Swedish artist Lars Vilks.

A
man found dead near the site of the second explosion has not been named. “The
mail was about one man,” police spokesman Ulf Goranzon told a press conference
on Sunday. “He was not satisfied with developments in Sweden regarding [the
fact] that we have military troops in other countries, that there had been
protests and that there have been said bad things about the Prophet
[Muhammad].”

While
the investigation is at an early stage, the nature of the explosions does look
similar to previous attempted attacks in New York, Glasgow and London, says the
BBC’s defence and security correspondent, Nick Childs.

Saturday’s
blasts struck as people were out Christmas shopping.  The car exploded on the busy shopping street
of Drottninggatan at 1700 (1600 GMT) and the second blast occurred 10 to 15
minutes later on a street about 300m away, police said. The car had contained
gas canisters and there were a series of minor explosions, a spokesman told the
BBC.

Unconfirmed
reports in Sweden’s Aftonbladet newspaper said the dead man had been carrying
pipe bombs, as well as a backpack full of nails.

Eyewitnesses
saw him lying on the ground with blood coming out of his stomach.  Tweeting about the blasts, Foreign Minister
Carl Bildt said a terrorist attack that could have been “truly catastrophic”
had failed. In November, Sweden raised its terror alert level from low to
elevated because of a “shift in activities” among Swedish-based groups thought
to be plotting attacks.

A
security official said the threat level had not been raised as a result of
Saturday’s attacks.

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