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Dec 11th, 2010

Twin Explosions Rattle Stockholm, Kill 1

Deadly Stockholm blasts linked to Afghanistan

Police forensics experts examine remains suspected suicide bomber.
Police forensics experts examine the remains of a suspected suicide bomber in Central Stockholm on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010. The man was found lying dead after a loud explosion, with a bag allegedly containing a number of pipe bombs close by. (Photo credit: Fredrik Persson / EPA)

Reuters and The Associated Press via
Dec. 11, 2010

STOCKHOLM — Two blasts rocked the center of Stockholm Saturday night in what Sweden’s foreign minister called “a terrorist attack” that killed one person and wounding two.

The blasts Saturday took place after Swedish news agency TT said it received a threatening letter about Sweden’s military presence in Afghanistan and a years-old case of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad.

“Now your children, daughters and sisters shall die like our brothers and sisters and children are dying,” the news agency quoted the e-mail as saying.

Asked if a man found dead at the site of the second blast blew himself up in some way, police spokesman Kjell Lindgren said: “It is possible.”

The incident began when a car burst into flames in the city center, followed by explosions from within the car which the police said were caused by gas canisters.


Police probe blasts that killed 1 in Stockholm (NBC Nightly News, Dec. 11, 2010) — According to officials, the explosions occurred about 200 yards apart in the busy shopping center of the Sweden’s capital city. NBC’s Lester Holt reports. (00:18)

Another explosion took place, in which the man died, about 300 yards away [and 10-15 minutes later]. Two people were wounded in that blast.

“Most worrying attempt at terrorist attack in crowded part of central Stockholm. Failed — but could have been truly catastrophic,” Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said in a message on Twitter, which was also shown on his blog.

Several hours after the blast, the man’s body was still lying on the pavement, covered with a white sheet. …

The Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter quoted a man called Pascal, a trained medic, as saying, “It looked as if the man had carried something that exploded in his stomach.”

“He had no injuries to the face or body in general and the shops around were not damaged.”

The newspaper Aftonbladet quoted a source as saying that the man was carrying six pipe bombs, of which only one exploded.

He also had a rucksack full of nails and suspected explosive material, the newspaper said. It also quoted eyewitnesses saying the man was shouting in what was apparently Arabic. …

‘Stupid support for the pig’

TT said the warning, which was also sent to Sweden’s Security Police, was received 10 minutes before the blasts. The agency said the mail had sound files in both Swedish and Arabic attached.

The voice on the sound file addressed Sweden and the Swedish people and talked about Sweden’s silence over the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed by artist Lars Vilks and Sweden’s presence in Afghanistan, TT reported.

“Our actions will talk for themselves. As long as you do not end your war against Islam and humiliation of the prophet and your stupid support for the pig Vilks,” TT quoted the man on the sound file as saying.

The man also urged all Muslims in Sweden to “stop sucking up to and degrading,” reported The Local, Sweden’s English news publication. He concluded the message with yet another call to “all the mujahedeen” in Sweden and Europe.

“Now it’s time to act, don’t wait any longer. Fear no one, don’t fear prison, don’t fear death,” according to the email stated, The Local reported.

Holiday shoppers

Swedish media reported scenes of panic in the busy Christmas shopping areas with people fleeing amidst smoke and the smell of explosives.

Sjolander said it was unclear what caused the second explosion but a police bomb squad has been sent to the site.

Another rescue services spokesman, Roger Sverndal said the car that exploded contained gas canisters.

Car explosion in Stockholm. (©TV4 via AP)

Gabriel Gabiro, a former AP staffer, was inside a watch store on the opposite side of the street from the second explosion and saw people running from the site.

“I saw some people crying, perhaps from the shock,” he said. “There was a man lying on the ground with blood coming out in the area of his belly, and with his personal belongings scattered around him.”

Gabiro said the blast was “quite loud” and he saw smoke coming from the area where the man was lying.

“It shook the store that I was in,” he said of the blast. “Then there was smoke and gun powder coming into the store.”

Sweden — which has so far been spared any large terrorist attacks — raised its terror threat alert level from low to elevated in October because of “a shift in activities” among Swedish-based groups that could be plotting attacks there.

The security police said then that the terrorism threat in Sweden remained low compared to that in other European countries, and no attack was imminent.


12/12/10 Update

Swedes Shocked by First Terror Attack in 3 Decades

Image: A man points to where a car bomb went off
A man points Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010 to the corner of Olof Palmes Gata and Drottninggatan streets in central Stockholm, where an apparent car bomb exploded. (Jonathan Nackstrand  /  AFP — Getty Images)

By Malin Rising

Dec. 12, 2010

STOCKHOLM — 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. …

Experts said the alleged bomber probably didn’t succeed in detonating all the explosives and could have caused much greater damage. The Daily Mail on Sunday named the Stockholm suicide bomber as Taimour Abdulwahab Al-Abdaly.

The newspaper reported the 29-year-old was born in Iraq but moved to Sweden in 1992. He reportedly graduated from the University of Bedfordshire in Luton in the United Kingdom in 2004 after studying sports therapy and is married with two daughters. The newspaper reported that he was thought to have been active on Muslim dating sites looking for a second wife.

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. …

Swedes, with a tradition of welcoming immigrants and a culture of transparency, began questioning the veracity of their self-image of being a secure nation after the 1986 murder of Prime Minister Olof Palme. In 2003, the fatal stabbing of Foreign Minister Anna Lindh in an department store was a wake-up call for many.

But there have been no major terrorist strikes.

“We had a terrorist attack in the 1970s from the Rote Armee Fraktion of Germany, but if this is a suicide bomber it is the first time in Sweden,” security police spokesman Anders Thornberg told The Associated Press. “It’s very serious and it’s very tragic that these things have come to Sweden too.” …

Magnus Norell, a terrorism expert at the Swedish Defense Research Agency, said it was just a matter of time before Sweden was hit by a terror attack. …

Norell said Sweden has the same problem with worsening radicalization among Islamic groups as other countries, with young men traveling to training camps in countries such as Somalia and Pakistan. …

The 2007 drawing of the Prophet Muhammad by Lars Vilks has raised tensions before in Sweden. In May, Vilks was assaulted while giving a speech in Uppsala, and vandals unsuccessfully tried to burn down his home in southern Sweden.

Tension over immigration also has been growing in this nation of 9.4 million. Sweden attracted more Iraqi refugees following the U.S. toppling of Saddam Hussein than any other country in the West, but calls for restrictions have increased in recent years and in September the far-right Sweden Democrats entered Parliament for the first time, winning 20 of the 349 seats. …

Saturday’s blast could have been disastrous if the car explosions had set off gas canisters inside the vehicle. …


12/13/10 Update

Bomber Aimed for Major Swedish Targets

Bomber came from Iraq and had spent time in the U.K.

Image: Alleged Stockholm suicide bomber Taimour Abdulwahab Al-Abdaly
This undated picture shows the alleged Stockholm suicide bomber Taimour Abdulwahab Al-Abdaly. The man suspected of carrying out weekend bombings in Sweden said in a purported will he was fulfilling a threat by Al-Qaida in Iraq to attack Sweden, the SITE monitoring group said on Monday, Dec. 13, 2010. (Photo credit: AFP — Getty Images)

Reuters via
Dec. 13, 2010

LONDON — A Middle East-born man who died in a blast in Stockholm was wearing an explosives belt and likely intended to attack a crowded train station or department store when the device went off prematurely, an official said.

Sweden’s chief prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand told a news conference on Monday the man had been well equipped with explosives, including the belt, and he assumed the man had accomplices as the attack was well planned.

“If it had all exploded at the same time it could have caused very serious damage,” Lindstrand said. …

He said Abdulwahab, born in 1981, became a Swedish citizen in 1992 and came from a Middle Eastern country, though it was unclear which. He had lived in Sweden and spent time in Britain.

Media reports said Abdulwahab came from Iraq. …

A post on a Muslim dating website showed Abdulwahab was married with two young daughters and looking for a second wife.

In the post, he wrote that he was born in Baghdad and moved to Sweden in 1992 and that he studied at the University of Bedfordshire in Luton, a town with a large Muslim community. …

U.S. terrorism expert Evan Kohlmann told Reuters the suspect had been identified on online forums normally used by militant groups, including al-Qaida, as “holy warrior” Taimur Abdelwahab. …

The incident follows several nervous months in Europe after a U.S. travel alert about possible attacks by militants and a failed bid by a Yemen-based al-Qaida group to use air cargo to send parcel bombs via Europe to America. …


1/7/11 Update

Stockholm Bomber Was Trained in Iraq, Says Official

Jan. 7, 2011

DUBAI — Iraq informed the United States about a plot to carry out bombings in Sweden two months before an attack in Stockholm by a man trained in Iraq, an Iraqi security official told al Arabiya television on Friday.

Major General Dhai Kanani, director of Iraq’s anti-terrorism unit, said the man who blew himself up in Stockholm on December 11 had received explosives training in the Iraqi city of Mosul for three months.

He had entered Iraq from Turkey, he added, according to al Arabiya’s website.

He said confessions by al Qaeda members detained in Iraq had also revealed that “an Egyptian national entered Iraq at the same time and received similar training to probably carry out another mission.”

Kanani said that “Iraq had information on bombings in Sweden, which it informed the Americans about before the bombing in Sweden by more than two months,” al Arabiya reported.

He said some detained al Qaeda members had said the group was planning attacks in the United States and Western Europe and “that Sweden was among the targets for an attack at the end of 2010.”

A senior Iraqi counter-terrorism official told Reuters in December al Qaeda was planning attacks in the United States, Britain and Europe around Christmas and Iraq had informed the affected countries. He said then that indications pointed to Sweden.

Taymour Abdulwahab, a Swedish national of Middle Eastern decent, is believed to have been killed in a botched attack on downtown Stockholm after a bomb belt he was wearing went off prematurely.

Police believe he was preparing to attack a train station or department store at the height of the Christmas shopping season. …


Related report

Islamists raise fears of violent ‘clash of cultures’ in Europe


2/24/11 Update

‘Islam is regarded as the biggest threat to Europe for many Europeans’


Sweden’s immigration policies drive nation to a crossroad (MSNBC, Feb. 23, 2011) — The country’s first suicide attack and the rise of a far-right political party are signs of change in traditionally tolerant Sweden. Matthew Rivera reports for (04:31)

By Theresa Cook
February 23, 2011

MALMO, Sweden  — The bullet exploded through the mosque’s window, sending glass splinters hurtling into the office worker’s neck.

Frantically abandoning their New Year’s Eve chatter and coffee cups, worshippers rushed to the bloodied victim’s aid. The bullet had missed his head by inches; the sniper’s target would survive.

Police allege the shooting at Malmo’s Islamic center — Sweden’s largest mosque — was not random. Investigators say it was one of ten attempted murders and at least one killing perpetrated by a gunman whose objective was to “shoot at immigrants.”

The apparent bid to kill a Muslim in a place of worship provoked much soul-searching in Sweden, long regarded as one of Europe’s most liberal and welcoming societies.

But only nine months later, hundreds of thousands would cast ballots for the far-right Sweden Democrats. With its roots in the neo-Nazi movement, the party warned of “the dangers of Islamization” and ran a controversial campaign ad showing a gang of burqa-clad women overtaking a senior citizen in a race for benefits.

The election result grabbed headlines across Europe. “Anti-immigration party formed from skinhead movement seizes balance of power in Sweden” was the take of Britain’s Daily Mail. Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine noted that the showing had “shocked a world so used to viewing Sweden as an open-doored bastion of tolerance.” …

The Sweden Democrats’ success was another sign that a mix of immigration, economic woes and the threat of Islamist extremism has swirled into a perfect storm of problems in Europe. Far-right parties in Austria, Britain, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland have all made significant gains in recent years. …

“We can’t deny that today Islam is regarded as the biggest threat to Europe for many Europeans,” said Professor Anne Sofie Roald of Malmo University’s Department of International Migration and Ethnic Relations. “People are perceiving it as a threat because they feel that the minority is growing.” …

An Iraqi-born bomber who blew himself up before he could set off several devices along a busy Stockholm street before Christmas damaged relations further. …

An estimated 44 million Muslims live in Europe – about six percent of the continent’s total population — and the figure is expected to grow to 58 million by 2030, according to The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.

This growth has sparked fears and a backlash across Europe:

  • A poll released in December indicated that only about one third of Germans hold positive views of Muslims.
  • France – home to an estimated 4.7 million Muslims — last year banned the wearing of face veils in public.
  • In 2009, Swiss voters backed a ban on new minarets being built at mosques.
  • Earlier this month, about 2,000 supporters of the extremist English Defence League held a rally in Luton, north of London. The group says its focus is countering radical Islam, but banners reading “No more mosques” were visible at the protest. Past demonstrations have erupted into violence.
  • And during last year’s election campaign, [Sweden Democrats party leader Jimmie] Akesson wrote an op-ed in which he promised to combat the “dangers” of Islam, which he labeled Sweden’s “greatest external threat since World War II.”

In Malmo, about one-third of the city’s almost 300,000 residents were born abroad. Although Denmark lies a mere 10 miles away across the hulking Oresund Bridge, there are more Iraqis living there than Danes.

People from 174 countries call Sweden’s third-largest city home – including substantial Bosnian, Serb, Polish, Lebanese, Iranian, Afghan, Pakistani and Somali communities.

Malmo’s Islamic center serves a 60,000-strong Muslim community, including people who speak 120 different languages. …

Full story


Related reports on this site

West’s Worn-Out Welcome in Afghanistan (Nov. 21, 2010)

Image: An Afghan woman waits for Marines to search her home
An Afghan woman waits with U.S. Marines outside her home in Helmand Province while it is searched on Dec. 23, 2009. (Photo credit: Adress Latif / Reuters file)

Yemen Air Cargo Parcel Bombs (Nov. 6, 2010)

The devices were designed to be detonated by a cell phone, a source close to the investigation told CNN.
The devices were designed to be detonated by a cell phone.
(Photo credit: CNN)

Al-Qaida’s Low-Intensity / High-Frequency Strategy (Oct. 30, 2010)


Hunt is on for Yemeni explosives architect (NBC Today, Nov. 2, 2010) — Authorities say 28-year-old Ibrahim al-Asiri built and shipped an array of explosive devices to the U.S. after masterminding last year’s Christmas Day underwear bomb plot and orchestrating a dry run of materials in September. NBC’s Richard Engel reports. (02:29)

Record Afghan War Dead (Sept. 6, 2010)

Image: Dead child
A school boy killed by an explosion is seen surrounded by relatives, as some chant anti-U.S. and Afghan government slogans in Rodad, Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan. (Photo credit: Rahmat Gul / AP)

Afghan Civilian Deaths Up 31% (Aug. 13, 2010)

Spc. Christian Hoffman of Sanford, Florida, a medic with the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan, listens for the heartbeat of a gravely wounded man after a civilian truck hit a buried mine on June 21, 2010 in Khushi Khona, near the Turkmenistan border. Eight local Afghan men were aboard the truck, returning from a routine trip to buy sheep. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images)

‘Making Enemies’ in Afghanistan (April 12, 2010)

Image: Afghans protest bus shooting
Afghans gather at right, burning tires and shouting “Death to America” after U.S. troops fired on the bus at left in Kandahar on Monday, April 12, 2010. (Photo credit: Allauddin Khan / AP)

Karzai: Stop Air-Raiding Civilians (Nov. 5, 2008)

Image: Afghan men examine a destroyed house
Afghan men examine a house allegedly destroyed by U.S. airstrikes in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Nov. 5, 2008. (Photo credit: Humayoun Shiab / EPA)

Karzai Warns of Afghan Backlash (Sept. 25, 2008)


Karzai criticizes NATO over civilian deaths (NBC Nightly News, Feb. 20, 2010) — In a speech to the opening session of parliament, President Hamid Karzai urged NATO to do more to protect civilians during combat operations to secure Marjah, although he noted the military alliance had made progress in doing that, mainly by reducing airstrikes and adopting more restrictive combat rules. Karzai also reached out to Taliban fighters, urging them to renounce al-Qaida and join with the government. NBC’s Brian Williams reports. (00:30)


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — December 11, 2009

Christians Persecuted in China

Image: Golden Lamp Church
The huge Golden Lamp Church towers over the fields around in Linfen, Shanxi province, China. It was built to house a fast-growing congregation in gritty heart of China’s coal country, but now it sits empty, its doors fastened with bicycle locks and its top leaders in prison. (Photo credit: Andy Wong / AP)

One year ago today, I reported the closure of what may be China’s first megachurch — the most visible sign that the communist government is determined to rein in the rapid spread of Christianity, including a September 2009 crackdown in which hundreds of police and hired thugs descended on the Golden Lamp Church in Linfen, Shanxi province, smashing doors and windows, seizing Bibles, and sending dozens of worshippers to hospitals with serious injuries.


FROM THE ARCHIVES: Two Years Ago — December 11, 2008

Bachmann ‘Most Embarrassing’ Honors

Two years ago today, on Dec. 11, 2008, I reported that Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington’s 2008 Most Embarrassing Re-Elected Members of Congress report — which lists elected officials who have misused their position through illegal, unethical, or just plain outrageous conduct — featured U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann.

According to the report, “Rep. Bachmann gained notoriety for claiming God had told her to run for Congress, and for grabbing President Bush’s shoulder after the 2007 State of the Union and holding him there until he kissed her, as well as calling for investigation into the anti-American views of fellow members of Congress.”

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