By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — A truck has been driven into the crowded Ahlens department store in the Swedish capital, Stockholm, killing at least three people in a suspected terrorist attack.
“There are deaths, and many injured,” Nina Odermalm Schei, a spokeswoman for Swedish intelligence agency Sapo, told AFP on April 7.
“I saw at least three dead, but probably more,” Radio Sweden reporter Martin Svenningsen said. Police confirmed that at least three were dead.
Swedish national broadcaster SVT reported that at least five people were killed, but that could not immediately be confirmed. Reuters reported eight people were injured.
Police said they had received unconfirmed reports of shots being fired.
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said all indications point to an “act of terror” and that two people appeared to have been in the truck, which The Aftonbladet newspaper reported had been hijacked from Swedish beermaking company Spendrups earlier in the day.
“Sweden has been attacked,” Lofven said. “This indicates that it is an act of terror.”
“Given what has happened in other parts of Europe, we cannot currently exclude that this is a terrorist crime,” police said.
Police said there had been no arrests in connection with the attack. Lofven had earlier said one person had been held. Police also said there were no indications of shots being fired, contradicting an earlier media report.
They released a picture of a potential suspect from a surveillance camera near the scene of the attack.
The man in the photo was wearing a white sweater and a dark hoodie under a military green jacket.
The truck crashed into the Ahlens department store near the busy Drottninggatan pedestrian area in the early afternoon.
Television footage showed a column of smoke rising from the scene and helicopters flying overhead. A large number of police cars and ambulances were also seen.
A witness told Aftonbladet that the truck came “out of nowhere.”
“I couldn’t see if anyone was driving, but it was out of control. I saw at least two people get run down. I ran as fast as I could away from there,” he said.
Aftonbladet quoted a spokesman for the Spendrups company as saying the truck had been stolen while the driver was unloading goods during a delivery earlier in the day. The company said the driver was safe.
Police have asked locals to avoid the center of the city and announced that the subway system has been shut down.
Authorities ordered the evacuation of the nearby central train station, although they did not say why.
Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf said the royal family viewed the attack “with dismay.”
“We follow developments, but as of now our thoughts go to the victims and their families,” he said.
Among the early reactions from abroad, a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a statement saying: “Our thoughts go out to the people in Stockholm, to the injured, their relatives, rescuers and police. We stand together against terror.”
Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, said, “”We stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with the people of Sweden.”
“One of Europe’s most vibrant and colorful cities appears to have been struck by those wishing it — and our very way of life — harm,” he added.
Sweden’s Scandinavian neighbors reacted by increasing security in public areas.
Norwegian police said officers at the Oslo airport and in the country’s major cities would be carrying weapons until further notice following the Stockholm attack. Norwegian police normally do not carry weapons.
In Finland, police in the capital, Helsinki, said they were increasing patrols.
There have been several recent terrorist attacks involving vehicles ramming crowds in Europe, all of them claimed by the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization.
Five people died as a result of a knife-and-vehicle attack in London on March 22.
On December 19, 12 people were killed and 48 injured when a truck was driven into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin.
In July 2016, 86 people were killed when a truck slammed into crowds in the French city of Nice.