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Last-minute malfunction contained damage from bomb in central Stockholm.
STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Sweden was only a technical failure away from a terrorist bloodbath as the Scandinavian monarchy was hit by the first suicide bomber in the nation’s history.
In what is suspected as a protest against Sweden’s 500 soldiers in Afghanistan and the controversial Scandinavian Muhammad cartoons, a 28-year-old father of two set off a huge detonation including six pipe bombs and shiver bombs in Stockholm’s prime shopping district, along Drottninggatan (Queen’s Street), in the midst of hectic Christmas shopping Saturday evening.
Several hundred people walked close to the suicide bomber, who chanted Arabic slogans seconds before committing the attack.
“It could have killed up to several hundred people and caused lots of injuries,” said Bo Janzon, weapons expert at the Swedish Defense Research Agency, referring to the bomb’s technical failure. Five of the six pipe bombs did not go off.
A technical investigation is still underway, but Henric Ostmark, bomb expert at the Swedish Armed Forces said that, most likely, the pipe bombs weren't correctly connected.
The suicide bomber was killed and two passersby were rushed to the hospital with minor injuries. Minutes before the attack, a car bomb exploded 200 meters further down the street. A message was also sent around the same time to several email accounts, though officials have stopped short of connecting the events.
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said it is not yet clear that the three incidents — the suicide bomber, the car bomb and the email threat — were connected. “The three incidents are not confirmed as being connected but of course they lead to questions," he said.
Reinfeldt urged people not to panic. "There is a risk this can result in negative tensions in our society and throw suspicion on some individuals. It is therefore of great importance that we stick to what we know and defend the tolerance we want to characterize our society. People must be able to believe in different gods or no one at all. One must be able to live side by side. It is important to continue to defend our open society and do not jump into conclusions,” he said.
The area along Queen's Street turned into chaos immediately after the explosions as shoppers ran away in panic. “The buildings were shaking. We went scared and then we saw a dead person in the street,” said one onlooker, Tarja Johansson.
Some of the witnesses described a man on the street who was bleeding heavily from his stomach. “It was a major explosion followed by a sharp light and flames stretching several meters up in the air. Then we heard more explosions,” said Jonathan Bollman, another civilian at the scene of the explosion.
One anonymous witness said that he saw two people helping the suicide bomber. “I saw two people next to him. One was pulling him and one ran away,” said the witness.
Twelve minutes before the car bomb exploded at 4:40 p.m., an email was sent to Sweden’s news Agency TT. But no one read the message immediately. “We did not see it instantly but the people on duty registered that it was a heavy file in the inbox,” said Mats Johansson, TT news director.
But when the bomb alarm reached the news desk, incoming emails were checked including the message, which included two large sound files, one in Swedish and one in Arabic. “We checked with an Arabic speaking person and the content in the sound files are identical,” said Johansson.
Sweden’s biggest daily newspaper, Aftonbladet, published a reconstruction of parts of the letter. “To Sweden and the Swedish people: Because of the silence regarding Lars Vilks’ cartoons and the Swedish soldiers in Afghanistan — now your children, your daughters and your sisters will die as our brothers, our sisters and our children are dying."
"Our acts will speak for themselves. As long as you do not stop your war against Islam, your degradation of the Prophet and your stupid support for the pig Vilks. All mujahedins in Europe and Sweden: Now is time to strike, do not wait longer. Come forward with whatever you got, even if it is a knife and I know you got more than a knife. Fear no one, fear no prison, do not fear death.”
The writer also asked his family for forgiveness for misleading them about a trip to the Middle East. “I never went to the Middle East to work or to make money, I went for jihad,” he wrote.
The sender also wrote that he had not been able to tell the truth to his wife or his children. He wrote that he loves his family and asked his wife to kiss the children on his behalf. “Tell them that daddy loves them.”
The sender was not anonymous and copies of the message were sent to several email accounts, including the Swedish Security Police.