The small Swedish town of Vetlanda was in shock yesterday, reeling from a stabbing attack that left seven injured, while police said it was too early to determine the motives of the suspected 22-year-old Afghan assailant.
The lone attacker went on a 15-minute rampage in the town of about 13,000 inhabitants on Wednesday afternoon.
Authorities said yesterday that the case is being treated as attempted murder, while police said they are investigating “potential terror motives”.
“All victims are from Vetlanda and they are all male,” said Vetlanda police chief Jonas Lindell. “There is, to our knowledge, no connection between the perpetrator and the victims.”
“The motive is an important aspect of the investigation as it could affect the potential charge,” regional police chief Malena Grann told a press conference, adding that the attacker seemed to have acted alone.
While stressing that the investigation is in its early stages, Grann said police had already questioned witnesses, collected evidence and searched the man’s residence.
Police had informed the arrested man, identified only as a 22-year-old with Afghan citizenship, that he is a suspect but had yet to question about the actual act.
All the injured were men, born between 1945 and 1985.
The suspect was taken to hospital after being shot in the leg by police following the attack in the town in southern Sweden.
“Right now we are a municipality in shock and given what we are hearing from elsewhere the whole country is in shock,” Vetlanda Mayor Henrik Tvarno told a press conference.
“There are so many questions that we are looking for answers to. What has happened, what is behind this? It is a nightmare,” Tvarno added.
Yesterday several police officers patrolled the area where the bloody attack occurred the day before.
A heart-shaped bouquet of red roses and candles was placed near the scene of one of the stabbings.
“It’s a small town and we’ve never had something like this happen before and I think it’s shocking,” 54-year-old Vetlanda resident Ulrika Lovfor told AFP.
Three of those attacked were said to have suffered life-threatening injuries, but were in stable condition, while two others were in serious condition, according to the local health authority in Jonkoping where they were being treated in hospital.
Public prosecutor Adam Rullman also told AFP yesterday that in the event of it being designated a terrorist crime, it would be handled by a special unit within the Prosecution Authority.
“They have not deemed it necessary for them to take over the investigation at this stage,” Rullman added.
The prosecution authority later said in a statement that they had requested the district court to remand the suspect in custody, with a hearing expected today.
According to media reports, the suspect arrived in Sweden in 2018 and was awaiting a decision on a residence permit.
Several thousand young Afghans have travelled to Sweden to seek asylum in recent years, with many arriving via Iran.
Initial reports said eight people had been injured but a police statement early yesterday revised the number to seven.
The suspect was a resident of the area and previously known to police, but in the past had only been accused of “petty crimes”, including small-scale cannabis use, according to local media reports.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven called it an “attack on innocent people” but he too noted the investigation remained an attempted murder probe.
“A lot is still unknown, but one thing is certain and that is that every attack against innocents will be met by the joint strength of all of Sweden,” he said.
Swedish intelligence services say the possibility of an Islamist extremist attack was considered high, with the Scandinavian country having been targeted twice in recent years.
In December 2010, a man carried out a suicide bomb attack in the centre of Stockholm.
He died after only slightly injuring passers-by.
In April 2017, a radicalised Uzbek asylum-seeker ran over pedestrians in Stockholm with a stolen truck, killing five people.
He was sentenced to life in prison.
The country has also seen extremist violence linked to the far-right.
In 2015, a racially-motivated attack at a school left three people dead.
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