Saturday 20 January 2018

Stockholm terror attack suspect was on police radar

Suspect device found on truck that ploughed into shoppers

Swedish PM Stefan Lofven places flowers at the scene Photo: Fredrik Sandberg / TT via AP
Swedish PM Stefan Lofven places flowers at the scene Photo: Fredrik Sandberg / TT via AP

Robert Mendick

The lorry that ploughed into a Stockholm department store, killing four people, was carrying a suspected bomb that failed to detonate, police said yesterday as they admitted the terrorist responsible had been on their radar.

Last night, the man arrested in a dramatic swoop was revealed to be a 39-year-old migrant labourer from Uzbekistan, who had gone to Sweden about four years ago.

Bodies lie in the street after Friday's attack Photo: Fredrik Sandberg / TT via AP
Bodies lie in the street after Friday's attack Photo: Fredrik Sandberg / TT via AP

The country's security services admitted they had received intelligence on him a year ago but had found no links to Islamic State-inspired jihadist networks and discounted him as a risk to the public.

Sweden's police chief said there were "clear similarities" to the attack two weeks ago on Westminster Bridge and Parliament in which five people were murdered.

It raises the prospect the Stockholm attacker had been imitating the assault on London by Adrian Ajao, also known as Khalid Masood, the British Muslim convert who was shot dead by police at the Palace of Westminster.

As police and Swedish intelligence services officials continued to interrogate the suspect last night, it emerged that the beer delivery lorry he hijacked and then drove into the Ahlens department store appeared to have contained a bomb, which would have caused casualties on a catastrophic scale.

A woman weeps at the crash site yesterday Photo: AP Photo/Markus Schreiber
A woman weeps at the crash site yesterday Photo: AP Photo/Markus Schreiber

Dan Eliasson, Sweden's national police commissioner, said a suspect device was found in the driver's seat and was being examined by forensics officers.

"I cannot say at this stage that this is a bomb or some sort of flammable material," Mr Eliasson said. "We are doing a technical investigation."

He added: "Nothing indicates that we have the wrong person. On the contrary, suspicions have strengthened as the investigation has progressed."

The discovery of a possible bomb makes it far less likely the suspect was acting alone. Last night, police special forces made three more arrests in swoops on a car in central Stockholm and at an address in the suburb of Varberg.

The damaged beer truck is towed away Photo: AP Photo/Markus Schreiber
The damaged beer truck is towed away Photo: AP Photo/Markus Schreiber

Anders Thornberg, head of the Swedish security police Sapo, said the Uzbek terror suspect had not been "part of any of the security police's ongoing investigations", but was "a person who has previously figured in our intelligence flow".

Mr Thornberg said: "We received intelligence last year, but we did not see any links to extremist circles."

A neighbour of the suspect last night described him as "hard-working" and said he sent money home to his family.

Among those thought to have been killed in the attack was an 11-year-old girl out shopping. The schoolgirl's desperate relatives appealed for help to find her after she failed to return home from school on Friday. "No one knows anything, she is just missing," said one relative.

CCTV clue: Swedish police said they wanted to trace this man in the wake of the attack Photo: Swedish police/PA Wire
CCTV clue: Swedish police said they wanted to trace this man in the wake of the attack Photo: Swedish police/PA Wire

The youngster often enjoyed passing the shops on her way home from school, they said. "She usually travels at that time, and that is a natural place for her to be," one relative added.

Last night, Swedish police took DNA from her home to help identify any -remains found at the Stockholm's Queen Street shopping area, where the lorry ploughed through a shop window before bursting into flames.

With another four people fighting for their lives in hospital last night, Sweden's Royal family joined mourners at the attack scene where a tearful Crown Princess Victoria laid roses. "We must show a huge force, we must go against this," she said.

One survivor, grandmother Papusa Ciuraru, 83, spoke of the kindness of strangers who carried her to a hotel for treatment. She has undergone surgery in St Goran's Hospital after her leg was crushed under a concrete bollard.

"When I was laid there I thought it was over," she said later. "People around me just screamed, I thought there was a war going on. I tried to pick myself up and run, but there was a large stone over my leg.

"Two people came up to me, one had a bike, but just left it to one side. They picked me up and carried me to Hotorget and took me into a hotel where I received treatment.

"I was surprised that they stayed to help me. I thought that everyone would run past me and save themselves."

She was one of 15 people injured. Last night, 10 remained in hospital.

The terrorist driver appeared to target children as the hijacked lorry zigzagged along the pedestrianised street. Witnesses reported seeing children's buggies "flying through the air".

"It swerved from side to side. It didn't look out of control, it was trying to hit people," said tourist Glen Foran.

"It hit people, it was terrible. It hit a pram with a kid in it, demolished it."

Television footage showed hundreds of shoppers and office workers fleeing the scene after the lorry careered down the precinct, killing a dog and crushing flowerpots and litter bins as it went.

"We stood inside a shoe store and heard something and then people started to scream. I looked out of the store and saw a big truck," Jan Granroth told reporters.

Faisal Khan, whose brother and other family members died in a terror attack in Kabul three years ago, was on his way to buy a dozen roses to put on his sister-in-law's for her birthday. "I heard a loud noise followed by men and women screaming," he said.

"Luckily he was not a good driver. It felt to me like he did not have experience driving such a large vehicle. This guy -really wanted to cause a lot of damage."

Omar Mirza was working in a shop as the truck stuck and said he saw a woman die in a man's arms.

Therese Walther, 30, was in the clothes store Zara when she saw the truck hit a girl. "It was coming as fast as hell," she said. "It ran straight over a girl."

She said that Zara staff led her and dozens of others to its cellar for safety and locked the doors behind them. Staff at the department store Ahlens, which the stolen truck crashed into, were being offered counselling over the weekend.

Last night, hundreds of mourners had made a wall of colourful flowers on the aluminium fences surrounding the scene and left teddy bears and messages of love for the victims.

After fleeing the scene, the suspect, who had been wearing a balaclava, was spotted by a woman on a commuter train who rang police.

Later, a motorist saw him behaving suspiciously at a petrol station, recognising him from CCTV pictures. Officers followed a trail of blood from the last sighting before capturing him.

An Uzbek woman who lives near the address later raided by police said the suspect had approached her a couple of years ago and asked to use her address as a contact point for mail, but she had seen him only sporadically since then.

She said: "I have never seen any sign that he would be an extremist or care about religion. On the contrary, he partied and drank alcohol like many Uzbeks in Sweden."

The man's arrest brings to three the number of attacks thought to have been carried out by suspects from Uzbekistan in less than four months.

The International Crisis Group, which aims to prevent conflict, believes that up to 4,000 militants from central Asia may be active under the Isil banner.

Sweden has taken in nearly 200,000 migrants in recent years, more per capita than any other European country.

Telegraph.co.uk

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