Saturday 18 November 2017

Stockholm truck attack suspect was a rejected asylum-seeker

Thousands of people descended on Sergels Torg square, close to the scene of the Stockholm attack, to remember the victims. Photo: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images
Thousands of people descended on Sergels Torg square, close to the scene of the Stockholm attack, to remember the victims. Photo: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

Matti Huuhtanen

The Stockholm truck attack suspect was a rejected asylum-seeker from Uzbekistan who eluded authorities' attempts to deport him by giving police a wrong address, Swedish police said yesterday while announcing the arrest of a second suspect.

Stockholm police official Jan Evensson told a news conference that the 39-year-old suspect, who was named in Swedish media as Rakhmat Akilov, had a request for a residence permit rejected in June 2016, but police could not find him to send him back to his native country because he was not at the address he had given.

Swedish police started formally seeking Akilov on February 24.

"We know he has been sympathetic to extremist organisations," Jonas Hysing of Sweden's national police said. Akilov was arrested within hours of Friday's attack on shoppers.

A second person has been arrested in connection with the attack and is suspected of terrorist offences, including murder, spokeswoman Karin Rosander of the local prosecutor's office said. She did not give further details about the new suspect. Four others were being held by police.

Mr Evensson said authorities have questioned more than 500 people in the investigation so far.

Briton Chris Bevington was one of the four people killed. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Briton Chris Bevington was one of the four people killed. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

The four victims killed in Friday's attack, in which a hijacked beer truck was driven into an upmarket department store, included a British man, a Belgian woman and two Swedes, authorities said. Their identities were not released by Swedish officials.

The British government named the Briton as Chris Bevington, a 41-year-old executive at Swedish music-streaming service Spotify. In Brussels, the Belga news agency said the Belgian woman had been reported missing before she was identified by her identity papers and later by DNA testing.

As of yesterday, 10 of the 15 people wounded in the truck attack in the Swedish capital remained hospitalised, including one child. Stockholm county spokesman Patrik Soderberg said four of the 10 were considered "seriously" injured and the remaining six, including the child, were slightly injured.

One of the wounded, an 83-year-old Romanian woman who was begging on the main Drottninggatan shopping street when the attack took place, said she was "surprised" that passers-by helped her.

Children lay flowers at the point where a truck drove into a store in Stockholm. Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images
Children lay flowers at the point where a truck drove into a store in Stockholm. Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images

"I thought everyone would run past me and save themselves," Papusa Ciuraru, whose foot was crushed by a boulder displaced by the speeding truck, told the 'Expressen' daily.

The lion-shaped boulders on Drottninggatan are meant as roadblocks and similar structures have been put up in several European capitals after a truck attack killed 12 people at a Christmas market in Berlin.

Tens of thousands of people gathered in Sergels Torg, a square near the site of the truck crash, to remember the victims.

Rickard Sjoberg, one of the organisers, told the crowd there were probably people from out of town among them. "But today, we're all Stockholmers," he said to huge applause.

The department store that was rammed by the truck apologised for an announcement that it would reopen two days after the deadly attack to sell damaged goods at a "reduced price".

The Ahlens store described it as "a bad decision" on its Facebook page, saying its motivation "was born out of the idea of standing up for transparency and not allowing evil forces to take control of our lives."

Irish Independent

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