Uzbek arrested for Stockholm attack

People leave floral tributes on the steps at Sergels Torg public square,for victims of a truck attack in central Stockholm,Sweden,09 April 2017.[Jessica Gow/Sweden Out/EPA]

After a massive manhunt for the driver of a stolen truck that ploughed into a crowd outside a busy department store in central Stockholm on Friday(7 April),killing four and injuring 15,Swedish police arrested a 39-year-old from Uzbekistan who had been denied permanent residency in Sweden and who had expressed sympathy for Islamic State.

Two sources who had worked with the suspect,Rakhmat Akilov,independently identified him to Reuters from images distributed by police as the manhunt got underway on Friday.

Two police spokespeople declined to confirm his identity,as did the suspect’s court-appointed lawyer.

Police said the suspect had previously turned up in information gathered by Swedish security services.“He was a marginal character,”said Sweden’s national police chief Dan Eliasson.He did not figure in any of their investigations immediately prior to the attack.

Police have also said the suspect had shown sympathies for extremist organisations,including Islamic State and that he was wanted for failing to comply with a deportation order after his application for residency was denied.

A British man killed in the Stockholm attack has been named as 41-year-old Chris Bevington.Two Swedes and one Belgian also died in the Friday attack.

Sweden will hold a minute’s silence today at 1000 GMT with ceremonies across the country in honour of the victims of Friday’s truck attack.

International sympathy

The European Union and countries across the continent offered Sweden support and solidarity on Friday following what the Swedish government said appeared to be a terrorist attack using a vehicle in central Stockholm.

“An attack on any of our member states is an attack on us all,” said President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. “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.

“We stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with the people of Sweden and the Swedish authorities can count on the European Commission to support them in any which way we can.”

“My heart is in Stockholm this afternoon,” President of the European Council Donald Tusk tweeted. “My thoughts are with the victims, and their families and friends, of today’s terrible attack.”

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert also reacted to the news.

“Our thoughts are with the people in Stockholm, the injured, relatives, rescuers and police. We stand together against terror,” he said in a tweet.

The French government said President François Hollande expressed his horror and outrage at the attack.

“France expresses its sympathy and solidarity with the families of the victims and all Swedes,” the Elysée Palace said.

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter that he was “deeply concerned by shocking incident in Stockholm.”

“Britain’s thoughts are with the victims, their families and the whole of Sweden,” he said.

Sweden’s Nordic neighbours also expressed their horror.

“Terrible news from Stockholm. Our thoughts are with our neighbours and friends in Sweden,” Finland’s Prime Minister Juha Sipila wrote in Swedish on his Twitter account.

“It hurts deep into my heart that our Swedish brothers and sisters have been exposed to such an abominable attack,” said Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen in a statement.

“A cowardly attempt to subdue us and our peaceful way of living in Scandinavia. It is a day of mourning. But it is also a day of will … A will to fight the darkness. For every attempt to bend us we move closer. We move closer around our Swedish neighbours,” the Danish leader added.

“Shocked over the terrible attacks in the middle of Stockholm. Our brothers and sisters are hit and we share their sorrow,” Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said in a tweet.