STOCKHOLM – Swedish authorities said Monday that the suicide attacker who blew himself up in Stockholm over the weekend was carrying at least three bombs and may have had accomplices.
Prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand said the man, believed to be 28-year-old Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, was also the owner of the car that exploded Saturday afternoon in a busy shopping district in the Swedish capital. A few minutes later, the bomber blew up explosives he was carrying, becoming the only fatality in the two blasts. Two people suffered minor injuries.
Al-Abdaly was an Iraqi-born Swede who maintained a home in Britain and who once stormed out of a mosque there after being told that his extremist religious views were unacceptable.
Lindstrand said the attacker wore an explosives belt, carried a backpack and held a pressure-cooker-like device in his hands. All three contained bombs. One of the explosives may have detonated prematurely before al-Abdaly could reach his target, possibly Stockholm’s central train station or a popular shopping mall, where the death toll from such an attack could have been much higher.
Investigators are now trying to determine whether the bomber acted alone or belonged to a terrorist cell.
“We know that he was alone in the actual execution, but we also know from experience that there tends to be more people involved in such acts,” Lindstrand told reporters.
Minutes before the bombs went off, a Swedish news agency received an e-mail with sound files that warned of jihad against Sweden and its people. The message lambasted the Scandinavian country for sending troops to Afghanistan and for its “war against Islam,” and called on Muslim fighters to rise up throughout Europe.
“Now your children, daughters and sisters will die just like our brothers, sisters and children are dying,” the e-mail said.
Though apparently botched, Saturday’s bombing was the first terrorist attack to hit Sweden in decades, horrifying a nation that prides itself on its openness and tolerance but where a recent influx of immigrants, many of them Muslims, has sparked tension. In October, 20 members of a far-right party won seats in the Swedish parliament after campaigning on an anti-Muslim platform.
Apology to family
Swedish authorities said they had not flagged al-Abdaly as a potential threat and had little information about him.
But in the British town of Luton, about 25 miles northwest of London, police raided a house believed to be the residence of al-Abdaly and his wife and children. Al-Abdaly moved to Britain about 2001 and earned a degree in sports therapy at a nearby university in 2004, the Associated Press reported.
At some point, he began developing radical views of Islam, which put him in conflict with the local mosque.
“He just had theological doubts, extreme views, which he was spreading, which we put an end to, and he stormed out of the mosque,” Qadeer Baksh, the chairman of the Luton Islamic Center, told the BBC.
But members of the mosque did not suspect that al-Abdaly would resort to violence himself, Baksh said.
Al-Abdaly also apologized to his family for misleading them about his activities in the e-mail that he is suspected of having sent to the Swedish news agency before the bombings in Stockholm. “I never went to the Middle East to work or to make money. I went for jihad,” the message said.