STOCKHOLM, Sweden – No one died except for the suspected bomber, but two explosions in Sweden’s capital tore at the fabric of this tolerant and open nation – a society that hadn’t seen a terrorist attack in more than three decades.
Two people were wounded in central Stockholm on Saturday in what appeared to be the first suicide bombing in the history of Sweden, which has been spared the major terrorist strikes seen in several other European countries.
A car exploded in the middle of the seasonal shopping frenzy, shooting flames and causing several smaller blasts as people ran screaming from the scene. The blast that killed the alleged bomber came moments later a few blocks away from the car explosion on a busy pedestrian street.
Experts said the alleged bomber probably didn’t succeed in detonating all the explosives and could have caused much greater damage.
Although police haven’t confirmed Saturday’s attack was motivated by Islamist views, an audio file sent to Swedish news agency TT shortly before the blast referred to jihad, Sweden’s military presence in Afghanistan and a cartoon by a Swedish artist that depicted the Prophet Muhammad as a dog, enraging many Muslims.
It hasn’t been verified that the speaker is the person who set off the explosive, but police have said they are investigating that possibility.
“Now the Islamic state has been created. We now exist here in Europe and in Sweden. We are a reality,” the voice said in the file, submitted to the Associated Press by TT. “I don’t want to say more about this. Our actions will speak for themselves.”
Police in the UK searched a property in Bedfordshire on Saturday after reports that the alleged bomber lived in Luton and studied at the University of Bedfordshire, the Press Association of Britain reported.
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt on Sunday said the attack was “unacceptable” but urged Swedes not to jump to “premature conclusions” that “create tension which paints pictures that are then difficult to change.”
“Sweden is an open society … which has stated a wish that people should be able to have different backgrounds, believe in different in gods … and live side by side in our open society,” Reinfeldt said at a news conference.
On Sunday, the pedestrian district where the explosions occurred was eerily quiet and empty for a mid-December weekend.